Think of the people you know who smoke cannabis four or more days a week over the course of years. Now think of the people you know who drink almost every day of the week for years. How do these two groups of people differ financially and socially?

A new study conducted by an international team of researchers at the University of California, Davis followed children from birth up to age 38. Their research concluded that people who smoked cannabis four or more days a week for years, ended up in a lower social class than their parents, with “lower-paying, less skilled and less prestigious jobs” than those who were not regular smokers. In addition, “frequent fliers” experienced more financial, work-related and relationship difficulties which worsened over time and use.

A tall tale

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The key detail about this study is that the 1,037 people followed in the study represented a cross-section of the population…of New Zealand. Anyone who has ever spent time in New Zealand knows that while every country and culture are unique Kiwis are the most unique. Given the fact that this study occurred on a tiny island in the South Pacific, with a very specific population, it is hard to apply its findings to the rest of the world.

The study concluded that long-term cannabis users had more “antisocial behaviors at work and relationship problems” and more financial difficulties, such as “paying for basic living expenses and food” than users of alcohol. However, many of the study’s findings should be put into perspective.

Some relevant details

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According to Mental Health Foundation research, 16 percent of New Zealand adults have been diagnosed with a common mental disorder at some point in their lives. To boot, in 2014, the median income from wages and salaries was $45,000 before tax. (The median income in the U.S. is $52,000). Meanwhile, the cost of living in New Zealand is almost 6 percent higher than the U.S. That said, it is really hard to blame cannabis use for the social and economic decline of the people in the study, when there are so many other socio-economic factors at play.

Perhaps even more importantly, cannabis is not legal in New Zealand. This means that cannabis users have to do things the “old fashioned way.” That is, pay top dollar for a low-grade product (expensive) and do it all black-market style (depressing). So when a psychologist with dual appointments at Duke University and the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London states, “Cannabis may be safer than alcohol for your health, but not for your finances,” maybe she should consider the inflation of prices of products that can only be purchased illicitly.

Overall, it would be a serious stretch to apply the findings of this research to literally any other country in the world. It’s like they wanted to prove their hypothesis and picked New Zealand to conduct the study because they knew no other place in the world would serve their purpose. To that point, it would be awesome if they could conduct the same study in Denver, Colorado, which repeatedly ranks top three in the healthiest and happiest cities in America and 25 percent of the population admits to smoking cannabis.

A world full of stoners

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Also, it has been proven repeatedly that alcohol abuse is more likely to be a factor in traffic accidents and violence, which is related to socioeconomic problems. Alcohol use is also far more prevalent than cannabis use. The bottom line is that if the world was full of people who chose cannabis as their only substance to use, it is highly unlikely (pun intended) that there would be the amount of violence, poverty, crime, and social injustice that there is today. Leave that to alcohol and other addictions.

What do you think about the social and economic effects of cannabis use? Share your thoughts with us on social media or in the comments below.