Continuing with the focus of the impact that legal marijuana has on Colorado, The Hemp Chronicles will now switch the focus to it’s impact on the health front. In our last post we discussed the financial and economic implications that legal cannabis has had on Colorado, but not the public health.
From a study from the Washington Post, it is apparent that marijuana legalization in Colorado helped facilitate a reverse of opiate related deaths. In the research published by the American Journal of Public Health, Colorado’s legalization of marijuana has helped to save lives even. The authors are quick to emphasize that the results are preliminary since the study took place in 2017, just three years after the state’s first recreational marijuana shops opened in 2014. From the study, the authors reported that,
“After Colorado’s legalization of recreational cannabis sale and use, opioid-related deaths decreased more than 6% in the following 2 years” – M. Livingston, T. Barnett, C. Delcher, and A. Wagenaar, American Journal of Public Health
Many prior reports have shown an association between medical marijuana legalization and opioid related deaths, the report from the American Journal of Public Health is the first to look at the impact of recreational marijuana laws on opioid deaths. Christopher Ingraham from the Washington Post notes that marijuana is often highly effective at treating similar chronic pain that opiates are often prescribed for. Ingraham notes that from the standpoint of public health, this current trend is positive, as marijuana carries almost no risk of fatal overdose opposed to opioid use. He notes that,
“Overall, after controlling for both medical marijuana and the prescription-drug-monitoring change, the study found that after Colorado implemented its recreational marijuana law, opioid deaths fell by 6.5 percent in the following two years.” – Christopher Ingraham, The Washington Post, 2017
The authors are careful to note that policymakers would want to continue to monitor these numbers in coming years to see if the trend continues. And while they are positive that cannabis use can be a sustainable alternative to opioids and other prescribed drugs, they are quick to emphasize that legal marijuana can increase fatalities in other areas. Other areas can include fatalities related to driving under the influence of marijuana, yet the figures have not proved there to be any significant relation. Regardless the study supports the concept that,
“… increasing marijuana availability could help reduce the toll of America’s opiate epidemic, which claims tens of thousands of lives each year.” – Christopher Ingraham, The Washington Post, 2017