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If More Couples Smoked Weed, Would There Be Less Domestic Violence?

by Tosten Burks

August 29, 2014

Illustration by Tyler Hoehne

Stoner couples fight less, according to a new University at Buffalo study that investigates the relationship between marijuana use and intimate partner violence. The researchers surveyed 634 couples that applied for a marriage license in Buffalo, NY, between 1996 and 1999, throughout the first nine years of their marriages.  Couples in which both spouses reported “frequently” using marijuana also reported the least amount of domestic violence.

But the study’s conclusions come with some caveats: While the research solely hones in on newly married, heterosexual couples in Buffalo, intimate partner violence is a far-reaching issue that affects a wider demographic than those who have recently tied the knot. It still remains unclear whether remarried, long-married, dating, or same-sex couples who smoke pot are similarly less violent than their abstaining peers, or whether there’s just something particularly peaceful about Buffalo bud.

Source: Psychology of Addictive Behaviors

Nonetheless, the study breaks new ground in exploring the causes behind an issue that, according to a 2012 report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, affected Americans at a rate of 3.6 victimizations per 1,000 people in 2010. Previous research has shown that alcohol use strongly predicts domestic violence, and that substance use often follows as a result of that violence, but the University at Buffalo team is the first to attempt to quantify over time the specific impact of marijuana use on this kind of physical aggression.

It’s an interesting and important inquiry, as states continue to legalize marijuana for reasons both medical and non-medical. Public support for marijuana legalization in the U.S. famously reached a majority last year, an increase of 33 percent since 1995. Is it a coincidence that in roughly that same period, according to that same Bureau of Justice Statistics report, domestic violence in America has declined by 64 percent? 

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