Kind bud: Marijuana makes people nicer, more agreeable and empathetic

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Marijuana could be the key to kindness for all the curmudgeons out there. Scientists report that smoking cannabis makes people nicer, more empathetic, and even-tempered.

The study by researchers at the University of New Mexico finds that people who recently used marijuana had higher levels of empathy than non-users and made decisions based on a sense of fairness and desire to avoid harm to others. The drug may shift people away from thinking they always come first towards a sense of selflessness and responsibility towards other people.

Men who smoke marijuana were also found to have more agreeable personalities. Researchers say that those who used cannabis products more recently were notably nicer than people who had taken it less recently.

So are people who don’t consume cannabis doomed to a life of crankiness? Not quite. The study shows that people who did not use the drug were not found to be any angrier, more hostile or less trusting of others than cannabis users. They also did not score differently on measurements of extraversion, emotional stability, conscientiousness, openness or moral decision-making based on respecting authority and preserving purity, and they did not respond differently to facial threats.

“The transience of the effects supports that cannabis is triggering behavioral and perceptual changes rather than that cannabis users and non-user differ fundamentally in their baseline approaches to social interactions,” explains co-author Sarah Stith, an associate professor with the UNM Department of Economics, in a statement.

For the study, researchers studied the personalities of healthy university students. They measured their marijuana intake by examining the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in their urine.

The study is one of the first to show that marijuana use among healthy young adults makes them nicer. Earlier research has focused on the negative effects of the drug on addicts and its effects on users’ physical health.

“Almost no formal scientific attention has been devoted to understanding other psychological and behavioral effects of consuming the plant, despite it being so widely used throughout human history,” notes lead investigator Jacob Miguel Vigil, an assistant professor from the UNM Department of Psychology. “I often refer to the cannabis plant as a super medication, relative to most other conventional pharmaceutical products, because it is not only effective for treating the symptoms of a wide range of health conditions, quickly and relatively safely, but now we have concrete evidence that it may also help improve the average person’s psychosocial health.

“Prosociality is essential to society’s overall cohesiveness and vitality, and therefore, cannabis’ effects on our interpersonal interactions may eventually prove to be even more important to societal wellbeing than its medicinal effects,” he adds.

The findings are published in the journal Scientific Reports.

South West News Service writer Gwyn Wright contributed to this report.