A new study by researchers across the country suggests that marijuana legalization could be beneficial in countering widespread opioid abuse.
PITTSBURGH — The academic journal Health Economics recently published a brand new study that suggests that when a state legalizes marijuana, opioid abuse will be reduced.
“As of 2021, roughly a third of Americans now live in a state with a recreational cannabis law (RCL). Recent evidence indicates RCLs could be a harm reduction tool to address the opioid epidemic,” reads the study. “We conclude that, while cannabis liberalization may offer some help in curbing the opioid epidemic, it is likely not a panacea.”
The researchers include Dr. Coleman Drake of the Graduate School of Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt), in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. Drake is an economist and an assistant professor at Pitt’s Department of Health Policy and Management.
The local news website TribLive.com spoke to Dr. Drake about the potential impact of his study’s findings.
“It suggests that recreational cannabis legalization could be an effective tool to help not only reduce opioid use but also to reduce the health implications that stem from opioid use, one of them being overdoses,” said Drake in a statement to journalist Natasha Lindstrom. “That’s potentially exciting and promising.”
“I would hope that policymakers in states that have not yet legalized recreational cannabis would take a look at this closely,” Drake added. Drake’s study considered data that depicted opioid-related emergency room visits. Those visits dropped by at least 7.6 percent within one year of cannabis legalization for adult residents in four subject states.
These states feature data from California, Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts. Drake further described that the research should not be taken as a so-called “silver bullet” to stemming the opioid abuse epidemic still raging through the United States. Rather, the findings in the study could be “another arrow in the quivers” of regulators and legislators looking for options to combat the broader crisis of drug abuse.