According to new research published in the American Journal of Public Health, Colorado’s legalization of recreational cannabis has lead to reduced opioid deaths.
The researchers came to these conclusions after studying data spanning from 2000 to 2015, looking at opioid deaths in the state before and after adult use of cannabis was legalized. Though the researchers stress that findings are preliminary and can only account for the short term, as they were only able to analyze data from two years of legalization in the state. That aside, their findings are still hopeful: this is the first research to try to draw conclusions about how cannabis law effects opioid use and overdoses. It could join the mounting research-driven evidence that marijuana can help in the fight to reduce opioid dependency and overdose.
Their approach was relatively straightforward; researchers examined trends in monthly reduced opioid deaths. in the state, and in order to try to isolate whether recreational cannabis specifically was causing a shift, they compared to trends in Nevada, who only had legalized medical marijuana during that time period. Researchers also took into account changes in Colorado’s prescription drug monitoring program, which required that all opioid prescribers register with, but not necessarily use, the program starting in 2014. After taking into account all of these controls, the researchers concluded that Colorado’s legalization of recreational cannabis led to a 6.7 percent decrease in opioid deaths in the two years following that change.
This is huge and can help the argument that cannabis should be seriously considered as part of the solution for the growing epidemic in opioid deaths–one that our Attorney General Jeff Sessions has vehemently opposed in scientifically baseless assertions about the nature of cannabis. “I am astonished to hear people suggest that we can solve our heroin crises by legalizing marijuana,” Sessions said recently on the topic. “So people can trade one life wrecking dependency for another that is only slightly less awful. I realize this may be an unfashionable belief in a time of growing tolerance of drug use.” It’s more than unfashionable, Jeff. Your “belief” is actively harming citizens that you’re responsible for.