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Do medical marijuana laws reduce opioid overdoses? A new study adds a layer of nuance

Posted: 2:14 PM, Feb 22, 2018
Updated: 2018-02-22 21:14:04Z

DENVER -- As the opioid crisis  deepens  in many places across the country, an increasing number of  researchers  and  advocates  are  looking at legal marijuana  as a possible solution. But a new study suggests that the connection between the two is more complicated than previously understood.

The study, which was  published online  this month by the Journal of Health Economics, makes two significant findings.

First, it confirms the results of  a groundbreaking 2014 study  that found states with medical marijuana laws have lower rates of fatal opioid overdoses. The connection was most dramatic, the new study concludes, in states that allowed dispensaries. For cannabis advocates, that is a major result because it provides further evidence that, when given the option, people may choose to treat pain with marijuana instead of with highly addictive opioids.

But the study’s second finding adds a complicating layer to the debate.

As more and more states adopted medical marijuana laws, those laws’ link to a reduction in opioid overdoses appeared to diminish, according to the study. When researchers included data after 2010 in their analysis, they found that the effectiveness of having any medical marijuana law “completely disappears.” While states that allowed dispensaries continued to see a connection to lower fatal overdose rates, researchers wrote that, “the magnitude of even this component of the policy has changed[.]”

Read the full story at The Denver Post.