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Study: Medical Marijuana Legalization Linked To Lower Medicaid Costs

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Medical Marijuana Legalization Lower Medicaid Costs

Athens, GA: Patients use fewer prescription drugs in states where access to medical cannabis is legally regulated, according to data published in the journal Health Affairs.

Investigators at the University of Georgia assessed the association between medical cannabis regulations and the average number of prescriptions filled by Medicaid beneficiaries between the years 2007 and 2014.

Researchers reported, "[T]he use of prescription drugs in fee-for-service Medicaid was lower in states with medical marijuana laws than in states without such laws in five of the nine broad clinical areas we studied." They added, "If all states had had a medical marijuana law in 2014, we estimated that total savings for fee-for-service Medicaid could have been $1.01 billion."

The findings are similar to those previously published by the team, which reported in 2016 that medical cannabis access was associated with significantly reduced spending by patients on Medicare Part D approved prescription drugs.

Separate studies have reported that patients with legal access to medical marijuana reduce their intake of opioids, benzodiazepines, anti-depressants, migraine-related medications, and sleep aids, among other substances.

Full text of the study, "Medical marijuana laws may be associated with a decline in the number of prescriptions for medicaid enrollees," appears in Health Affairs. For more information, please contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: paul@norml.org.