Medical Marijuana Legalization & Opioids

10March 2019

Recently, Medical Marijuana was legalized in New York State. Did you know this was done as an alternative to opioid use within the state?  Medical Marijuana Legalization & Opioids have a  competitive history.

What was wrong with Opioids?

Opioids can help relieve pain and a host of other symptoms. However, they are known to have destructive and addictive properties. As such, it was only a matter of time before an alternative without these side effects was needed. The alternative did come out.  It was Marijuana or Cannabis.

With all the political red tape and stigmas attached to Marijuana, who would have thought that the drug would be legalized? But it did come to be legalized due to the benefits it entailed on account of its healing properties without the serious side effects of the opioids.

How are Opioids and Marijuana related then?

Consumers now want to know the relation between the marijuana and the opioids. They want to know exactly how Medical Marijuana consumption has directly decreased the use of opioids by the masses.

Two studies done in this regard by JAMA Internal Medicine can help. These studies have found a direct link between the laws related to Medical Marijuana and opioid prescriptions pattern. The study also focused on protected access to dispensaries and the authorized MMJ retail outlets.

According to the first study, Medicare Part D prescriptions filled for all kinds of opioids reduced by over 2  million doses per year in states that legalized Medical Marijuana. In states with instant access to Medical Marijuana dispensaries, prescriptions dipped by over 3.8 million daily doses each year, per state.

The second study focused on data pertaining to Medicaid and found out a similar trend. States with Medical Marijuana legalization and adult-use laws saw a massive decrease in the opioids prescription rates.

Other than this, a few studies were funded by NIDA. These explored the relationship between marijuana legalization and the negative outcomes from prescriptive opioids.

The first of these studies saw an association between reduction in overdose deaths from opioid relievers and Medical Marijuana legalization. The association has strengthened each year after the implementation of the legislation.

The second of the studies by NIDA was a more detailed evaluation, and it was held by the RAND Corporation. This study found out that legally protected and allowed access to Medical Marijuana dispensaries were associated with lower levels of general opioid prescription as a pain reliever. Notably, the study found out that reduction in opioid related deaths was more visible in states with dispensaries and was even greater in states that had active dispensaries backed by the government.


Although these studies don’t form a concrete causal relationship, they do give significant insight into how Medical Marijuana laws and dispensaries have helped in reducing opioid addiction and the deaths caused because of it.

While research regarding the role of Medical Marijuana in reducing opioid addictions keep coming out every month, it can be said, without hesitation, that Medical Marijuana products may have an important role to play in controlling the risk of opioid prescriptions in the future.

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