Many marijuana advocates argue that legalizing cannabis would help reduce America's opioid crisis. However, a new study seems to both support and tweak that argument.
A new study on marijuana legalization and opioids came out that offered both good news and confusing news for advocates of cannabis. The good news is that the study did in fact confirm that states with medical marijuana have less rates of opioid abuse and overdoses than states that do not. That's pretty much been confirmed by most researchers.
But the study added a confusing caveat. They stated that over time, the degree that medical marijuana affected opioid abuse lessened. That doesn't seem to make a lot of sense, right? As more state legalized medical marijuana and the drug becomes more available, then wouldn't people be using it more instead of opioids?
The researchers offered two possible explanations for why the degree medical marijuana affects opioid abuse appears to be diminishing. One is that the opioid crisis is simply changing. Doctors are more aware of the problem and are prescribing painkillers less than in the past. Therefore people who abuse the drug are buying heroin and other, more dangerous drugs on the streets that marijuana isn't as effective a substitute for.
But another problem is access. The researchers noted that after 2010, the Obama administration and the states began imposing tighter restrictions and regulations on how marijuana dispensaries operated. These restrictions may actually have blocked opioid abusers from gaining access to cannabis.
This would suggest that either loosening regulations on dispensaries, or putting opioid abuse as a disorder that qualifies for medical marijuana, would reverse that trend and allow medical marijuana to once again help the opioid crisis.
Ultimately, the researchers said marijuana alone won't be able to fix the crisis, which is probably something no one could argue.
(h/t Denver Post)