Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Columbia University researchers found "a significant reduction in opioid positivity for drivers aged 21 to 40 years" in states with operational medical marijuana laws. (Photo: Dank Depot/cc/flickr)

Confirming Big Pharma Fears, Study Suggests Medical Marijuana Laws Decrease Opioid Use

Study comes after reporting revealed fentanyl-maker pouring money into Arizona's anti-legalization effort

Lauren McCauley, staff writer

It is of little wonder that Big Pharma has been exposed actively undermining efforts to legalize marijuana, after new research on Thursday found a drop in the use of opioid painkillers in that states that allow people to treat pain with good, ol' Mary Jane.

The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, examined data on traffic fatalities in 18 states and analyzed the cases in which the presence of opioids was detected. In states that had operational medical marijuana laws, which included either "allowances for home cultivation or active dispensaries," the Columbia University researchers found "a significant reduction in opioid positivity for drivers aged 21 to 40 years."

Thus, the researchers concluded that such laws "may reduce opioid use and overdose."

"We would expect the adverse consequences of opioid use to decrease over time in states where medical marijuana use is legal, as individuals substitute marijuana for opioids in the treatment of severe or chronic pain," explained lead author June H. Kim, a doctoral student in the Department of Epidemiology at Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health.

While not the first study to suggest that legalizing marijuana may be a solution to combat the national opioid abuse crisis, the report comes after it was revealed that in Arizona the company behind the fentanyl-based medication Subsys has been pouring money into an anti-legalization campaign in an apparent bid to "eliminate the competition."

The pharmaceutical company is currently facing multiple investigations for encouraging doctors to prescribe Subsys, a fast-acting and highly-addictive drug intended to alleviate cancer pain, for off-label uses. The manufacturer, Insys, is also currently developing a synthetic version of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, to treat cancer-related nausea and vomiting.

"It's not the first time pharmaceutical companies have helped bankroll the opposition to marijuana reform," noted journalist Lee Fang. "The Community Anti-Drug Coalition of America, a nonprofit that organizes anti-marijuana activism across the country, has long received corporate sponsorship from Purdue Pharma, the makers of Oxycontin, and Janssen Pharmaceuticals, another opioid manufacturer."

Fang also revealed this week that major alcohol industry groups, also seemingly concerned about the competition, have made significant contributions to anti-pot legalization efforts in Massachusetts and Arizona.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
We need your help.

Support progressive journalism.

Common Dreams is not your average news site. We don't survive on clicks or advertising dollars. We rely entirely on your support. And without it, our independent progressive journalism simply wouldn’t exist. Every gift of every amount matters.

Join the fight and support our common dreams today.

'A Deeply Dangerous Order': Trump-Appointed Judge Blocks Biden From Pausing New Oil Drilling Leases

"The judge's order turns a blind eye to runaway climate pollution that's devastating our planet."

Jake Johnson, staff writer ·


After Far-Right Marchers Chant 'Death to Arabs,' New Israeli Government Bombs Gaza

"The problem is bigger than Netanyahu—it's apartheid."

Jake Johnson, staff writer ·


Progressives, Big Tech Critics Celebrate Confirmation of Lina Khan as FTC Chair

"Her presence on the FTC marks the beginning of the end of an era of lawlessness for powerful corporations that they've enjoyed at the expense of workers, smaller businesses, and democracy."

Jessica Corbett, staff writer ·


'Our Democracy Hangs in the Balance': Calls Grow for Justice Breyer to Retire

"Democrats could lose our razor-thin majority in the Senate at any moment," warns Rep. Mondaire Jones. "It would be irresponsible to leave the future of our democracy up to chance."

Brett Wilkins, staff writer ·


Share of Fossil Fuels in Global Energy Mix 'Has Not Moved by an Inch' in a Decade

"We are waking up to the bitter reality that the climate policy promises over the past 10 years have mostly been empty words," said the executive director of REN21, which released the new report.

Jessica Corbett, staff writer ·