New Study Brings Skepticism to Idea That Legal Marijuana Reduces Opioid Deaths

In recent years, health professionals and policymakers have become increasingly interested in medical cannabis’s potential to reduce opioid use and prevent overdose deaths. Several states have already added opioid replacement provisions to their medical marijuana programs or approved opioid use disorder as a qualifying condition. At the same time, studies and surveys have seemed to suggest that states with legalized medical marijuana were seeing fewer opioid-related overdose deaths. But a new study, published yesterday, is complicating our understanding of whether legalization could be a potential solution to the opioid epidemic.

New Data Suggests Legal Weed isn’t Winning the Fight Against Opioids

In 2014, researchers found that states with legal medical cannabis access showed a trend of declining opioid overdose mortality rates over a period of about 10 years from 1999 to 2010. In medical marijuana states, patients were filling fewer opioid prescriptions. And fewer people were dying from opioid-related overdose deaths.

The study kicked off of wave of policy shifts approving medical cannabis as a treatment for opioid use disorder. More studies came out that seemed to corroborate the 2014 paper, showing how legal marijuana of any kind seemed to reduce opioid-related harm.

But a new study, published yesterday in

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