Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

legalize marijuana

Demonstrators demand marijuana legalization at a May 7, 2017 rally in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo: Tony Webster/Flickr/cc)

Legal Recreational Cannabis Reduces Prescription Drug Demand: Study

The researchers found "significant reductions in the volume of prescriptions within the drug classes that align with the medical indications for pain, depression, anxiety, sleep, psychosis, and seizures."

Brett Wilkins

Legalizing recreational marijuana lowers demand for prescription drugs through state Medicaid programs, according to a new study by researchers in New York and Indiana.

"Our results suggest substitution away from prescription drugs and potential cost savings for state Medicaid programs."

Shyam Raman, a doctoral student at the Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy, and Indiana University doctoral student Ashley Bradford reviewed quarterly data for all Medicaid prescriptions from 2011 to 2019 to analyze the association between recreational cannabis laws and prescription drug use.

In an article published last week in the journal Health Economics, the researchers wrote that "we find significant reductions in the volume of prescriptions within the drug classes that align with the medical indications for pain, depression, anxiety, sleep, psychosis, and seizures."

"Our results suggest substitution away from prescription drugs and potential cost savings for state Medicaid programs," they added.

Previous studies have shown reductions in prescription drug use in states with medical marijuana laws. For example, a 2020 paper by researchers at Columbia University's Irving Medical Center revealed a 20% drop in certain opioid prescriptions in states where medical cannabis use was legal compared with states that prohibited it.

However, this is one of the first studies to examine the impact of legal recreational marijuana on a wide range of prescription medications, according to Cornell Chronicle.

"These results have important implications," Raman told the paper. "The reductions in drug utilization that we find could lead to significant cost savings for state Medicaid programs. The results also indicate an opportunity to reduce the harm that can come with the dangerous side effects associated with some prescription drugs."

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, marijuana is legal for adult recreational use in 18 states plus the District of Columbia, while 37 states have legalized medical cannabis. On April 1, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to decriminalize the plant nationwide and expunge federal cannabis convictions and arrests. However, the measure faces an uphill battle in the Senate.


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

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Omar Leads Charge Against Baby Formula Monopolies Amid US Shortage

Democrats urge the FTC to probe "any unfair or unsustainable practices, like deceptive marketing, price gouging, and stock buybacks, that may be weakening our nutritional formula supply."

Jessica Corbett ·


'Arbitrary, Racist, and Unfair': Judge Blocks Biden From Ending Title 42

"Only the coyotes profiteering off of people seeking protection have reason to celebrate this ill-reasoned ruling," said one migrant rights advocate.

Brett Wilkins ·


'This Is a War' for Democratic Party's Future, Says Sanders of AIPAC's Super PAC

"They are doing everything they can to destroy the progressive movement in this country," said the senator.

Julia Conley ·


Ginni Thomas Pressed Arizona Lawmakers to Reverse Biden's 2020 Win: Report

"Clarence Thomas' continued service on the Supreme Court is a scandalous and appalling breach of judicial ethics," said one observer. "He is implementing the exact same theories that his wife used to try to steal the 2020 election for Trump."

Brett Wilkins ·


Millions More Kids Going Hungry Since GOP, Manchin Killed Expanded Child Tax Credit

"Even brief disruptions in access to food can have lasting consequences," wrote the authors of a new analysis of worsening hunger among U.S. families.

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo