San Francisco—Despite insufficient evidence regarding its risks and benefits, marijuana is increasingly available and sometimes aggressively marketed to the public, according to a new study that sought to understand the public’s views on the risks and benefits of marijuana use.

Among the findings was that nearly half of respondents thought the drug was beneficial for some diseases now treated with prescription medications, and more than half thought marijuana was useful for pain control.

The study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, used a probability-based online survey to question 16,280 adults in the U.S. in 2017, getting a response rate of 55.3%.

A team led by researchers from the University of California San Francisco reported that about 14.6% of U.S. adults said they had used marijuana in the past year. The survey indicated that about 81% of U.S. adults believe marijuana has at least one benefit, with 17% suggesting it has no benefits.

Pain management was the most common benefit, cited by 66%, followed by treatment of diseases such as epilepsy and multiple sclerosis, at 48%. A similar percentage, 47%, said they believed marijuana to be useful for relieving anxiety, stress, and depression.

On the other hand, the vast majority of respondents, 91%, report that they believe marijuana has at least one risk, although 9% said it has none.
Among the risks listed were:
• Legal problems (51.8%)
• Addiction (50%)
• Impaired memory (42%)

Despite that, nearly a third of U.S. adults, 29.2%, agreed that smoking marijuana prevents health problems. About 18% responded that exposure to secondhand marijuana smoke is somewhat or completely safe for adults, and 7.6% even indicated that it is somewhat or completely safe for children, study authors pointed out.

Furthermore, the article noted, 7.3% of the respondents agreed that marijuana use is somewhat or completely safe during pregnancy; 22.4% declared that marijuana is not at all addictive.

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