New Studies Show Legal Access to Marijuana is Consistently Linked With Reduced Opioid Use

Two recently published studies have reaffirmed the relationship between legal access to marijuana and a reduction in opioid use.

In the first study, published by the Minnesota Department of Health, researchers assessed the prescription drug use patterns of 2,245 intractable pain patients participating in the state’s medical marijuana program. Among the patients known to be taking opiates upon enrollment in the program, 63 percent “were able to reduce or eliminate opioid usage after six months.”

“The consensus of the available data indicates that cannabis may play a potentially valuable role in mitigating the opioid public health crisis”, says Paul Armentano, Deputy Director of NORML.  “It is time to set aside canna-bigotry and to stop placing politics ahead of American lives.”

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Study: Medical Marijuana Legalization Associated With Few Opioid Deaths, But Only in States With Dispensaries

A new study conducted by the RAND Corporation and published by the Journal of Health Economics has found that although medical marijuana legalization is associated with a decrease in opioid deaths, this is only true in states that have legalized dispensaries.

“The association between medical marijuana and lower levels of opioid overdose deaths — identified previously in several studies — is more complex than previously described and appears to be changing as both medical marijuana laws and the opioid crisis evolve”, says the Rand Corporation, whose new study is “the most-detailed examination of medical marijuana and opioid deaths conducted to date”.

The report found that “legalizing medical marijuana was associated with lower levels of opioid deaths only in states that had provisions for dispensaries that made medical marijuana easily available to patients.” Opioid death rates were not lower in states that just provided legal protections to patients and caregivers, allowing them to grow their own marijuana.

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Study: Cannabis Legalization Has Reduced Opioid-Related Deaths in Colorado

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The legalization of cannabis in Colorado has reduced opioid-related deaths, according to a new study published by The American Journal of Public Health.

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The objective of the study, conducted by researchers at the University of North Texas School of Public Health, the University of Florida, and Emory University, was to “examine the association between Colorado’s legalization of recreational cannabis use and opioid-related deaths.” To do this researchers “used an interrupted time-series design (2000-2015) to compare changes in level and slope of monthly opioid-related deaths before and after Colorado stores began selling recreational cannabis.” They also “describe the percent change in opioid-related deaths by comparing the unadjusted model-smoothed number of deaths at the end of follow-up with the number of deaths just prior to legalization.”

According to the study’s abstract; “Colorado’s legalization of recreational cannabis sales and use resulted in a 0.7 deaths per month (b = -0.68; 95% confidence interval = -1.34, -0.03) reduction in opioid-related deaths. This reduction represents a reversal of the upward trend in opioid-related deaths in Colorado.”

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Study: Legalizing Medical Marijuana Associated with Reduced Opioid-Related Hospitalizations

The statewide legalization of medical marijuana is associated with a reduction in hospitalization from opioids, according to a new study.

The study, conducted at the University of California, was published by the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependency and the National Institute of Health. Researchers assessed the association between medical cannabis laws and hospitalizations related to opioid pain relievers.

“This study demonstrated significant reductions on OPR- (opioid pain reliever) related hospitalizations associated with the implementation of medical marijuana policies”, states the lead researcher. “We found reductions in OPR-related hospitalizations immediately after the year of policy implementation as well as delayed reductions in the third post-policy year.”

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Jeff Sessions Makes Ignorant Comments on Marijuana and Opioid Abuse

During today’s National Association of Attorneys General Winter Meeting, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions expressed doubts that marijuana can help reduce opioid abuse, something science has continually found to be true.

“I see a line in the Washington Post today that I remember from the ’80s. This one was, if you smoke marijuana, it’s a cure for opiate abuse. Give me a break”, said Sessions. “This is the kind of argument that’s been made out there to just almost a desperate attempt to defend the harmlessness of marijuana or even its benefits. I doubt that’s true.”

Sessions may doubt it to be true, but numerous studies just over the past few years have found that marijuana – and a liberalization of the laws surrounding it – can have a drastic impact on opioid abuse and the growing opioid epidemic.

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