Study: Fewer Prescription Pill Deaths in States with Medical Marijuana

Opponents of medical marijuana in Florida often like to compare cannabis to prescription pills. They say marijuana will become just like pills; or as Sherriff John Rutherford put it to News 4 Jacksonville, “We will have medical marijuana in every backpack in every school in Duval County. It will be just like the pill mills.”

Although opponents of marijuana, like Rutherford, enjoy using this amusingly inaccurate analogy to frighten voters, they may soon find themselves without another talking point. According to The Washington Post, a recent study has discovered that states which allowed medical marijuana had nearly 25 percent fewer prescription pill overdose deaths than states that did not.

To come to that conclusion, researchers looked at the time span from 1999 to 2010 and relied on CDC death certificate data. Dr. Marcus Bachhuber, Lead study author, told ABC News, “We [found] it surprising that the difference is so big.” No one, not even cannabis proponents, expected to see such a difference.

While the overall rate of prescription pill deaths still rose in all states, there was a markedly huge difference between states with and without medical marijuana. The report also found that states that pass medical marijuana laws see a dramatic decrease in overdose deaths once the law has been passed.

Researchers, hoping to avoid misleading conclusions, also took into account increased police enforcement of prescription pills. but found no correlation between deaths and enforcement. It seems the marijuana that Rutherford fears so much is better at doing his job than he is.

The study does not come to a conclusion about why there is a correlation between medical marijuana and a decrease of pill overdoses, but they do have an idea. Colleen Barry, senior author of the study, said in a statement, “As our awareness of the addiction and overdose risks … grows, individuals with chronic pain and their medical providers may be opting to treat pain entirely or in part with medical marijuana.”

Researchers are cautious to say that medical marijuana is the sole reason certain states are seeing fewer deaths. Of course, it is difficult to draw conclusions from just one study, but it is hard to deny the findings. Correlation may not be causation, but given that the study took law enforcement into account, it is hard not to draw the conclusion that marijuana had an impact.

As the days roll on and the facts come in, it is becoming harder and harder to deny not only the financial benefits but also the social benefits of marijuana. Despite naysayers, marijuana seems to bring fewer fatal car crashes, less violent crime, a drop in teen drug use, and now fewer prescription pill deaths. In a state like Florida, where prescription pill abuse is a huge problem, medical marijuana may be able provide one possible solution.

In November, Floridians will have a choice about whether things should stay business as usual or whether they want to opt for cannabis in an attempt to break the strangle hold pharmaceuticals have on the state. Given that 9 out of 10 Floridians favor the medical marijuana initiative, it is apparent which choice they will likely make.

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