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The fight for legalization has one more advocate. Senator Elizabeth Warren D-Mass. asked Center for Disease Control Chief, Tom Friedan to explore, “the impact of the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana on opioid overdose deaths,” in an open letter to the agency. Her call brings attention to considerable research suggesting medicinal marijuana is often used as an exit drug.

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“From a public health standpoint, Warren is right. Research published last year in the journal Drug and Alcohol Review found that 80 percent of medical marijuana users reported substituting pot for painkillers, and 52 percent said they drank less when taking medical marijuana. ‘The high rate of substitution for prescribed substances, particularly among patients with pain-related conditions, suggests that further research into cannabis/cannabinoids as a potentially safer substitute for or adjunct to opiates is justified,’ the researchers concluded.”

In another study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, states where medicinal marijuana is legal reported a 24.8 percent decrease in opioid overdoses compared to states without legalization laws.

“Medical marijuana availability decreases the rate of opioid dependency and death. An NBER working paper published last year found that the presence of marijuana dispensaries was associated with a 15 percent to 35 percent decrease in substance abuse admissions and a similar drop in opiate overdose deaths.” 

Read the studies:

Do Medical Marijuana Laws Reduce Addictions and Deaths Related to Pain Killers? Published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.“Medical Cannabis Laws and Opioid Analgesic Overdose Mortality in the United States,” 1999-2010, Published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

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