Reduction in Colorado Opioid Deaths Due to Marijuana Legalization will be Ignored

The federal government has ignored nearly all of the evidence that clearly shows the medical benefits of cannabis and that cannabinoids are not as deadly as opioids. Attempts to reschedule marijuana from the strict schedule 1 category have been futile since the early 70’s. The latest study published by the American Journal of Public Health, showed a 6% reduction in Colorado opioid deaths over the two year period following recreational marijuana legalization. Considering the national average of opioid related deaths during that same period jumped up substantially, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, the reduction of opioid related deaths in Colorado is remarkable.

It is unlikely that anyone that has any authority on marijuana policy in the United States will pay attention to the reduction in Colorado opioid deaths. There has never been an administration running the country that has ever done anything about rescheduling marijuana. Some presidents and attorney generals may have commented on rescheduling, however it never happens. The study showing the reduction in Colorado opioid deaths is compelling. It implies that addicts will turn to recreational marijuana instead of opiates to get their fix. It implies that cannabis is less deadly than prescription opiate-based drugs are. It implies that refinement of medical marijuana could result in a safer way to wean addicts away from their dependencies. Do you think the current administration will actually pay attention to what this study is implying though?

Legalized marijuana has created a robust new industry for entrepreneurs, jobs in the states where it is legal and huge chunks of tax revenue for local governments.

Now, a new study in Colorado has found that marijuana may also play a role in cutting down the number of deaths from opioid overdose.

That information flies in the face of rhetoric from marijuana opponents, including U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who called the effects of marijuana “only slightly less awful” than that of heroin.

Opioid-related deaths from both heroin and prescription opioid overdoses have quadrupled since 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On average, 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. Marijuana has not led to one officially recorded overdose. And the study indicates it may actually have a hand in preventing them.

The conclusion of the study, published this month in the American Journal of Public Health, states the case plainly: “Legalization of cannabis in Colorado was associated with short-term reductions in opioid-related deaths.”

6 Percent Decrease
University professors Melvin D. Livingston, Tracey E. Barnett, Chris Delcher and Alexander C. Wagenaar wrote the study. Livingston and Barnett are with North Texas State University, while Belcher is with the University of Florida and Wagenaar is with Emory University.

The study set out to find if there is a correlation in opioid-related deaths and legalization of cannabis. Researchers looked at opioid-related deaths in Colorado between 2000 and 2015, giving them data on such deaths before and after the state began recreational marijuana sales in 2014.

They found a 6 percent drop overall in the number of opioid overdose deaths in the two years following legalization. Not only that, but the lower number of such deaths in 2014 and 2015 reversed an upward trend that had progressed every year since 2000.

While the findings are preliminary, given only two years of data since adult-use cannabis became legal in Colorado, the numbers show a connection between legalized recreational marijuana and reduced opioid overdoses. The researchers recommended that “as additional data become available, research should replicate these analyses in other states with legal recreational cannabis.”

Another option for pain.
There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that some people prefer marijuana for chronic pain rather than using prescription painkillers containing opioids. Celebrities ranging from Snoop Dogg to Olivia Newton-John advocate use of marijuana for pain and other medical conditions.

Sports figures also have pushed to have the rules changed in many of the major league sports, allowing for players to use marijuana rather than prescription drugs for pain management.

Researchers with the Colorado study said those involved with formulating policies and laws should keep a close eye on further research to see if the trend found in the study is replicated elsewhere. Other possible states for study include Oregon and Washington, which joined Colorado as among the first to allow a regulated recreational marijuana industry.

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