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Not just a high: WSU study indicates pot may relieve stress

Researchers conducted an experiment of low-stress activities on 82 people and observed their reactions.

Many in Washington State's burgeoning pot business say cannabis can help you relax. A Washington State Unversity study may just back that up.

Researchers found that daily cannabis users were significantly calmer than non-users when subjected to stress tests. That's even though all the participants were sober on the day of testing.

"Previous research has shown that small doses of THC or cannabis reduce feelings of stress," said study author Carrie Cuttler. "We were interested in whether this effect would persist beyond the period of intoxication."

The study involved 82 subjects. Half of the regular pot users and half of the non-users were assigned to do low-stress activities, such as putting their hands in lukewarm water and counting from one to 25.

The other subjects were required to put their hands in ice water and count backward from 2,043 by 17s, and to begin again every time they made a mistake.

Not surprisingly, given the earlier research, Cuttler said the regular pot users showed a "blunted" stress response.

"I definitely would agree with that," said Zachary Hall, long time pot user and bud tender at American Mary Recreational Cannabis. "There's a lot of customers coming in that aren't just looking to get a high but that relaxed feeling... that at ease effect.... just chill."

So, should marijuana be used as a way to reduce stress? "I suspect that cannabis is a good short-term solution," said Cuttler, but she adds that long-term effects of cannabis are not clear and that people should be taught other methods of coping with stress.

"Our study simply paves the way for future investigations," Cuttler said.

The study appears in the Psychopharmacology. It was funded in part by the excised tax dollars from the sales of recreational cannabis in Washington State. Cuttler said the funders had no role in designing, conducting or disseminating the study findings.

In 1998, Washington state voters approved medicinal marijuana use and in 2012, OK'd limited recreational use.