Study: Retail Cannabis Access Associated With Reductions In Opioid-Related Mortality

Marijuana and Opioids

Easton, PA: Operational cannabis dispensaries are associated with a reduction in opioid-related mortality, according to data published in the journal Economics Bulletin.

Researchers with Lafayette University in Pennsylvania assessed the relationship between medical cannabis retail access and opioid-related deaths over a 16-year period (1999 to 2015).

Authors concluded: "Our results suggest that states with active legal dispensaries see a drop in opioid death rates over time. … Overall, this research provides evidence that states with MMLs may see a decline in opioid overdose death rates if they enact legal dispensaries."

The paper’s findings are similar to those of a 2015 study determining, "[S]tates permitting medical marijuana dispensaries experience a relative decrease in both opioid addictions and opioid overdose deaths compared to states that do not." A 2017 study also reported that neighborhoods with "dispensary openings experience a 20 percentage point relative decrease in painkiller treatment admissions over the first two years of dispensary operations." Another study, published earlier this year in the Journal of Health Economics, concluded, "[S]tates providing legal access to marijuana through dispensaries reduce deaths due to opioid overdoses."

For more information, contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: Full text of the study, "Medical marijuana laws and their effect on opioid-related mortality," appears in Economics Bulletin. Additional information on the relationship between cannabis and opioids is available in the NORML fact-sheets, "Relationship Between Marijuana and Opioids" and "Societal Impacts of Cannabis Dispensaries / Retailers."