By David Powell et.al. RAND. If medical marijuana laws facilitate the substitution of marijuana for powerful and addictive pain relievers, a potential overlooked positive impact of these laws may be a reduction in the harms associated with opioid pain relievers. We study the impact of medical marijuana laws on problematic opioid use. Based on standard differences-in-differences models, event study analyses, and synthetic control models, we find that states permitting medical marijuana dispensaries experience a relative decrease in opioid addictions and opioid overdose deaths. The mitigating effect of medical marijuana laws is specific to states that permit dispensaries. We also evaluate potential mechanisms.

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