Study: Marijuana Dispensaries Associated With Localized Reductions in Opioid-Related Overdose Deaths

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Mary Jane’s medicinal marijuana dispensary in Eugene, Oregon. (Flickr/Rick Obst)

CLAREMONT, CA — Counties that permit the operation of medical cannabis dispensaries possess reduced rates of opioid-related mortality, according to the findings of an academic research paper published on the SSRN online network.

Researchers from Claremont McKenna College in California, the University of Georgia, and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock assessed the localized impact of dispensary operations on opioid-related mortality.

Authors reported, “[W]ithin MCL (medical cannabis law)-adopting states, counties with dispensaries experience six percent to eight percent fewer opioid-related deaths among non-Hispanic white men, while mortality due to heroin overdose declines by more than ten percent.”

They concluded, “Extrapolating our results implies that, for every 100,000 non-Hispanic white men, 10 fewer opioid-induced fatalities would have occurred between 2009 and 2015 if dispensaries were present and operating in every county within each MCL state.”

Prior studies have consistently identified a relationship between legal cannabis access and reduced levels of opioid-related abuse, hospitalizations, and mortality.

Full text of the study, “The effect of medical cannabis dispensaries on opioid and heroin overdose mortality,” appears online. NORML’s fact-sheet, “Relationship Between Marijuana and Opioids,” is online.

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