The more legal cannabis dispensaries a region has the fewer opioid deaths they suffered, according to a detailed new study published in a top-tier medical journal. Most sharply reduced were deaths from fentanyl overdoses.
In areas with one legal storefront cannabis dispensary, opioid death rates were an estimated 17 per cent lower than average. In areas with two dispensaries, there was an estimated 21 per cent reduction in mortality rates, the study found.
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The results — based on U.S. data — suggest marijuana use as an alternative to opioids in pain management could improve health prospects.
What the study doesn’t do, however, is specifically declare a direct cause of lower opioid death rates.
“Our findings suggest that higher storefront cannabis dispensary counts are associated with reduced opioid-related mortality rates at the county level,” the authors write. “While the associations documented cannot be assumed to be causal, they suggest a potential association between increased prevalence of medical and recreational cannabis dispensaries and reduced opioid-related mortality rates.”