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Studies suggest that legal marijuana could curb opioid crisis

There are two drugs that have dominated the news cycle lately: Marijuana, and opioids. With support for marijuana expanding across the country, the drug has become a hot-button issue. Several states have legalized or decriminalized it; others have relaxed their standards for medicinal use, or passed laws to allow medical cannabis. As for opioids, it is seemingly impossible to ignore the constant reports about the nation’s ongoing opioid crisis.

Marijuana and opioids have recently made the news again, but for a very different reason. Two major studies suggest that medical marijuana could be used to combat the widespread opioid crisis. The data suggest that opioid prescriptions are lower in states that allow medical marijuana.

Opioid prescriptions and medical marijuana laws

The data come from the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. Researchers examined the rate of opioid prescriptions in states that allow medical cannabis and those that do not. They discovered that states that permit medical marijuana had 2.21 million fewer doses of opioids prescribed per year compared to states that do not permit medical marijuana. The researchers also found that opioid prescriptions went down by 5.88% in states that allow medical cannabis compared to states that do not. According to these studies, states that allow marijuana for medicinal purposes have fewer overall doses of opioids and a reduced rate of opioid prescriptions.

Marijuana, opioids and the law

The implications of this research could be major. Because the opioid crisis is due in large part to the abuse of highly addictive prescription opioids, allowing access to medical marijuana could reduce the number of opioid prescriptions, thereby lowing the rate of abuse. If lawmakers take this data to heart, it could lead to many more states legalizing medical cannabis as a means of combating the opioid crisis. Currently, Indiana does not allow marijuana in any form, for any purpose—even medicinal. But as support for cannabis becomes more popular and the state’s own opioid crisis rages on, it could mean significant legal changes are in store.

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