Medical Marijuana Dispensaries May Save Lives

It is no secret that America has a problem with prescription pills. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 16,000 Americans died in 2013 from prescription pill overdoses. For years, legislators and law enforcement have been stumped on how to curb abuse; however, according to a new study, the solution may be as simple as legalizing medical marijuana.

The study was a joint effort on behalf of the RAND Corporation and the University of California-Irvine. Researchers calculated the number of each state’s admission for opioid-based addiction and then compared that figure to the number of opioid related deaths statewide.

In states with medical marijuana dispensaries, researchers found a 16 percent reduction in opioid-related deaths and a 28 percent reduction in opioid-related abuse treatment admissions. Interestingly enough, researchers found no reductions in abuse or overdoses in states that have medical marijuana but no dispensaries.

At the time of research, there were only six medical marijuana states without medical marijuana dispensaries.

However, it is important to note that the study did not find an overall reduction in legal prescription pill distribution. What this suggests is that the reduction of prescription pill abuse/death is not coming from legal opioid users, but rather illegal users.

Nevertheless, regardless of a patient’s legal status, a reduction in the number of those abusing and eventually dying from prescription pills is still a victory. From a legislative viewpoint, any law that can reduce the number of overdoses or the number of citizens addicted to prescription pills should still be considered.

Ultimately, researchers concluded that “providing broader access to medical marijuana may have the potential benefit of reducing abuse of highly addictive painkillers.”

The results from this study mirrors a 2014 study that found states with medical marijuana saw 25 percent fewer prescription pill related deaths. Another study published in 2013 found that states with medical marijuana had a 10.8 percent and 9.4 percent reduction in the suicide rate of men aged 20 through 29 years and 30 through 39 years, respectively.

These new findings are most likely to have the largest effect on the medical marijuana debate in states that are wracked by prescription pill abuse, like Florida. In 2014, those opposed to legalizing medical marijuana in Florida would often claim that legalizing medical marijuana would have terrible consequences.

In the debate leading up to the mid-term election, Sheriff John Rutherford told News 4 Jacksonville that medical marijuana would be “in every backpack in every school … it will be just like the pill mills.” However, RAND and UCI’s recent findings do not support such an assumption.

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