In a study published this week in the journal Economic Inquiry, researchers found that the legalization of adult-use cannabis reduced opioid overdose deaths by 21%.
The study, carried out by economists at the University of Massachusetts and Colorado State University, found that legalization had “particularly pronounced effects for synthetic opioids” such as fentanyl.
“Our principal finding is that recreational marijuana access significantly decreases opioid mortality, with the most pronounced effects for synthetic opioids,” the researchers concluded. The effect “stems primarily from access via dispensaries rather than legality per se.”
Confirms Previous Studies
This week’s study backs up previous work on the question. A 2014 JAMA study found that states with medical marijuana laws saw 25% fewer deaths from opioid overdose compared to states without.
Last year two further studies found lower opioid prescription rates in legal states. A University of Kentucky researcher found a 6% lower rate of opioid prescriptions for pain