A growing body of research suggests that legal marijuana access is associated with reduced opioid addiction and overdose deaths.
Here’s a sampling:
* Medical cannabis may be more effective at treating pain: According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, “patients who were treated with cannabis or cannabinoids were more likely to experience a significant reduction in pain symptoms.” Opioids have less compelling support in chronic pain management; according to the American Academy of Neurologists, “there is no substantial evidence for [opioids offering] maintenance of pain relief or improved function over long periods of time without incurring serious risk of overdose, dependence, or addiction.” The National Institute on Drug Abuse now reports that “medical marijuana products may have a role in reducing the use of opioids needed to control pain.”
* Access to medical cannabis may curb addiction: A federally-funded study showed “access to medical marijuana dispensaries is associated with lower levels of opioid prescribing, lower self-report of nonmedical prescription opioid use, lower treatment admissions for prescription opioid use disorders and reduction in prescription opioid overdose deaths.” States with medical cannabis dispensaries saw a “15 to 35 percent decrease in admissions to substance abuse treatment centers” for opioids. And such reductions in opioid prescription could free up over $1 billion federal taxpayer dollars that could be used for treatment and prevention.
* Access to medical cannabis is associated with fewer opioid-related fatalities: A 2014 JAMA Internal Medicine study found states with medical cannabis programs saw a nearly 25% reduction in opioid fatalities. The federally-funded study above also found opioid fatality reductions. And, a 2016 Columbia University paper concluded that medical cannabis laws “are associated with reductions in opioid positivity among 21- to 40-year-old fatally injured drivers and may reduce opioid use and overdose.”
 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, available at: https://www.nap.edu/read/24625/chapter/6.
 Franklin GM. Opioids for chronic noncancer pain, Neurology September 30, 2014 vol. 83 no. 14 1277–1284, doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1212/WNL.0000000000000839.
 National Institute on Drug Abuse, Is Marijuana Safe and Effective as Medicine?. Available at: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/marijuana/marijuana-safe-effective-medicine. Accessed 6/9/2017.
 Powell D, Pacula RL, Jacobson M. Do Medical Marijuana Laws Reduce Addiction and Deaths Related to Pain Killers? RAND Corporation; 2015. http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/working_papers/WR1100/WR1130/RAND_WR1130.pdf.
 Bradford AC, Bradford WD. Medical Marijuana Laws May Be Associated With A Decline In The Number Of Prescriptions For Medicaid Enrollees. Health Affairs. April 2017, available at: http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/early/2017/04/13/hlthaff.2016.1135.
 Bachhuber MA, Saloner B, Cunningham CO, Barry CL. Medical Cannabis Laws and Opioid Analgesic Overdose Mortality in the United States, 1999–2010. JAMA Intern Med. 2014;174(10):1668–1673. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.4005, available at: http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/1898878.
 Kim JH, et al. State Medical Marijuana Laws and the Prevalence of Opioids Detected Among Fatally Injured Drivers. Am J Public Health .2016;106:2032–2037. doi:10.2105/, available at: http://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/pdf/10.2105/AJPH.2016.303426.