A study released by the Drug and Alcohol Dependence Report shows that states with medical marijuana programs saw a 23% reduction in opioid related hospital visits and a 13% drop in lethal overdoses. The study analyzed hospitalization records in 27 states including nine with legal medical marijuana from 1997-2014. While the report shows a clear benefit to the efforts of cannabis legalization and public health, it flies directly in the face of comments by Attorney General Jeff Sessions who says he is “astonished” by the idea of legal marijuana assisting the opioid crisis. The study’s author, Yuyan Shi of the University of San Diego stated “Medical marijuana laws may have reduced hospitalizations related to opioid pain relievers. This study and a few others provided some evidence regarding the potential positive benefits of legalizing marijuana to reduce opioid use and abuse, but they are still preliminary.”
This is just the latest in a long line of studies backing the benefits of medical and recreational cannabis especially in harm reduction from more dangerous substances such as alcohol and pharmaceuticals. A 2014 study in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal found a 25% overall decrease in opioid related deaths in states with medical marijuana programs. Other recent studies such as an investigation in the July 2016 issue of Health Affairs found doctors in medical cannabis states prescribed 1,800 fewer prescriptions for painkillers per year. In 2016, opioids were involved in the deaths of 42,249 US citizens and opioid overdose deaths were overall five times higher in 2016 than 1999.