Study: Enactment of Medical Cannabis Laws Associated with Reduced Opioid Reliance

Thursday, 24 October 2019

Miami, FL: The enactment of medical cannabis access legislation is associated with lower rates of self-reported opioid use, according to data published in the International Journal of Drug Policy.

A team of researchers affiliated with Florida International University in Miami assessed the relationship between medical cannabis legalization and self-reported opioid use and misuse.

Authors reported, "[S]urvey respondents living in states with medical cannabis legislation are much less apt to report using opioid analgesics than [are] people living in states without such laws," even after controlling for potential confounding variables. They also determined that medicalization did not promote any increase in opioid misuse.

Investigators concluded: "[T]he present study found that in MML (medical marijuana legalization) states some displacement is occurring away from opioids toward medicinal cannabis. ... [M]edicinal cannabis may be one avenue to combat the consequences of the opioid epidemic without amplifying, beyond perhaps recreational cannabis, further illicit drug use. The association between cannabis and opioid use, however, demands further empirical scrutiny to establish causal order amidst less restrictive environments toward cannabis."

The findings are similar to correlations identified in several prior observational studies but are inconsistent with the conclusions of a paper published earlier this year which failed to identify a long-term association between medical cannabis access and opioid-related mortality.

Full text of the study, "The effect of cannabis laws on opioid use," appears in the International Journal of Drug Policy. Additional information is available from the NORML fact-sheet, 'Relationship Between Marijuana and Opioids.'