Study questions link between medical marijuana and fewer opioid deaths

The association between medical marijuana and lower levels of opioid overdose deaths—identified previously in several studies—is more complex than previously described and appears to be changing as both medical marijuana laws and the opioid crisis evolve, according to a new RAND Corporation study.

The report—the most-detailed examination of medical marijuana and opioid deaths conducted to date—found that legalizing medical marijuana was associated with lower levels of opioid deaths only in states that had provisions for dispensaries that made medical marijuana easily available to patients. Opioid death rates were not lower in states that just provided legal protections to patients and caregivers, allowing them to grow their own marijuana.

In addition, the association between medical marijuana dispensaries and fewer opioid deaths appears to have declined sharply after 2010, when states began to tighten requirements on sales by dispensaries.

“Our findings are consistent with previous…

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