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.
January 18, 2016 — drugpolicydebateradar