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J Health Econ. 2018 Mar;58:29-42. doi: 10.1016/j.jhealeco.2017.12.007. Epub 2018 Feb 3.

Do medical marijuana laws reduce addictions and deaths related to pain killers?

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RAND, Santa Monica, United States. Electronic address:
RAND, Santa Monica, United States; NBER Cambridge, MA, United States.
NBER Cambridge, MA, United States; University of California, Irvine, United States.


Recent work finds that medical marijuana laws reduce the daily doses filled for opioid analgesics among Medicare Part-D and Medicaid enrollees, as well as population-wide opioid overdose deaths. We replicate the result for opioid overdose deaths and explore the potential mechanism. The key feature of a medical marijuana law that facilitates a reduction in overdose death rates is a relatively liberal allowance for dispensaries. As states have become more stringent in their regulation of dispensaries, the protective value generally has fallen. These findings suggest that broader access to medical marijuana facilitates substitution of marijuana for powerful and addictive opioids.


Dispensaries; Medical marijuana; Mortality; Opioids; Pain killers; Substance abuse

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