The Link Between Legalizing Marijuana and Curbing the Opioid Epidemic

December 11, 2017

Cannabis Legal

With the legalization of the recreational use of marijuana comes countless opportunities and advances in how weed is understood within our culture. A decriminalized activity, an economic booster, and an opioid overdose reducer — those are just a few of the phrases used to describe cannabis and its legalized recreational use. Yes, recreational use of cannabis may be linked to reducing opioid overdoses.

One of the greatest public health challenges today is the opioid epidemic in the United States. Killing around 64,000 people in the last year alone, overdoses from opioids are the leading cause of death for Americans under 50 years old. It’s a drug crisis that is continuing to claim lives.

Marijuana—both medical and recreational—may offer a reprieve. States such as New Mexico, where opioid overdoses are high and medical marijuana is legal, see marijuana as a potential replacement for highly addictive prescription opiates. And after a study done in Colorado, they have reason to believe cannabis may have a correlation to reducing opioid overdoses.

According to research that was published in the American Journal of Public Health , opiate overdose deaths in Colorado have decreased following the legalization of marijuana.

The study, published by Melvin D. Livingston, Tracey E. Barnett, Chris Delcher, and Alexander C. Wagenaar, states that “after Colorado’s legalization of recreational cannabis sale and use, opioid-related deaths decreased more than 6% in the following 2 years.”

Results are derived from only two years of data, but it has put another stake in the ground in terms of where the cannabis conversation is headed.

There have been numerous studies linking medical marijuana use and the decrease in opioid overdose deaths, but this is the first study that looks deeper into the impact of recreational marijuana and opioids.

Researchers had two controls in the study: legal medical marijuana and Colorado’s prescription drug monitoring program that took effect during the study. Additionally, researchers compared Colorado to Nevada, which at the time only allowed medical marijuana and not recreational use (which was made legal on July 1st, 2017).

The study is incredibly interesting for policymakers and all those involved in the cannabis debate, especially for cannabis dispensaries such as MedMen.

Cannabis can reduce anxiety, pain, and so much more—so it’s no surprise why marijuana offers a great alternative to highly addictive opiates. MedMen, which is gearing up for the transition from medical-only to recreational use in California, is helping to normalize the use of marijuana, leading the way in an entirely new form of both pharmaceutical and recreational drugs.

While there is no certainty as to what will happen with regards to the opioid epidemic as the purchase of marijuana is rolled out in California in the new year, MedMen will continue to function at the forefront of the cannabis-centered movement.

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