Opioid Overdose Rates Decline in Areas with Marijuana Dispensaries


The legalization of medical and recreational cannabis may play a vital role in reducing the rates of opioid overdose in the United States, according to new research.

Previous studies found that states that fund and support marijuana programs and education quickly benefit from a noticeable reduction in opioid overdoses, but until now this research has been limited to the state level--a distinction that somewhat overshadows individual achievements at the more concentrated level of county statistics.

The Statistics that Matter

This study--conducted by Julio Garin from Claremont McKenna College, R. Vincent Pohl from the University of Georgia, and Rhet A. Smith from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock--used a sample demographic of white men aged 15 to 54 to explore the correlation between marijuana dispensaries and opioid overdose rates. They examined the instances of opioid-related deaths for the six years between 2009 and 2015, then compared the results for counties with legal marijuana dispensaries and those without.

Garin, Pohl and Smith’s initial findings support previous research; local opioid overdose rates decline in the presence of legal marijuana dispensaries. Despite this research, there remain counties in various states where marijuana dispensaries are legal that still refuse to allow dispensary operations in their county. Those that do welcome the presence of dispensaries, however, benefit from a significant decrease in opioid-related mortality rates--between six and eight percent. Furthermore, when observing heroin overdoses alone, overdose deaths decreased by an impressive ten percent.

Why Is This Happening?

Researchers theorize that the availability of legalized marijuana may satisfy the needs of those individuals who otherwise would be in search of prescription painkillers. By reducing initial reliance on prescription painkillers, the path that leads to addiction and the need for stronger, more dangerous opioids like heroin is all but eliminated.

What Else Is Affected?

It’s very possible that counties that support legal marijuana programs could see reductions in crime rates as well. As we all know from media coverage of the so-called “opioid epidemic,” opioid use, as well as opioid-related arrests increase in number year over year, and state holding facilities are often filled with individuals exhibiting opioid abuse habits and disorders. Marijuana users, conversely, engage in significantly less criminal activity. By allowing dispensaries to operate and reducing painkiller and opioid reliance in the first place, crimes related to the drugs may see a significant downturn.

Hopefully this new information will serve to show an additional benefit of legal dispensary installation that lawmakers and county officials may not have considered. Individual counties actually have a significant amount of power over their local drug climate (and likely drug-related crime rates), a power that is unfortunately being neglected and misused in many places. Instead, these counties would rather restrict access to marijuana, a medical treatment that relieves pain and can eliminate the need for prescription painkillers or opioids. Only time will tell.

Today’s blog is written by Rick Weyback, MD, founder of Doctor Jane and our medical marijuana physician. If you are considering marijuana treatment or are wondering if medical cannabis may be right for you, please contact the team here at Doctor Jane at your earliest convenience.

About Doctor Jane

Doctor Jane is South Florida’s most discreet, professional, and convenient concierge medical cannabis practice. Dr. Luis Enrique R. Liogier-Weyback and his wife, Katie Liogier-Weyback, B.S., R.N., founded Doctor Jane on the core tenets of bringing personal, convenient, professional and discreet patient care to the medical marijuana treatment process. Doctor Jane provides South Florida patients and their caregivers with a safe space where they can exercise their right to access medical cannabis therapy in an environment of their choosing, free from stigma and complications.

Visit our website to find out more or to schedule your own medical cannabis consultation. www.DoctorJane.net