A new study published in the journal called Health Affairs analyzed prescription drug usage in U.S. states where medical marijuana laws are in place. The study gathered Medicare data from 2010 – 2013 to see if patients were using cannabis to replace prescription drugs and the economic impact cannabis is having on Medicare. “In 2013 alone, when 17 states had legalized medical marijuana, Medicare saved over $165 million. A simple extrapolation suggests that if all states legalize marijuana, annual savings could be triple that amount, $500 million.” The study also concluded that prescriptions fell in 8 out 9 categories with pain medication seeing the largest drop.

The entire country is dealing with an opioid epidemic, but the Ohio Valley in particular has an extreme opioid problem. In 2014, state health records in Kentucky, West Virginia, and Ohio showed that opioid overdoses resulted in 3,373 deaths. The Center for Disease Control determined that those 3 states ranked in the top 5 in terms of states with the highest drug overdoses, with opioids being one of the main culprits. Recently, Governor John Kasich from Ohio signed legislation that made Ohio the 25th state to have medical marijuana laws; legislators in Kentucky are looking to implement similar legislation. Kentucky and Ohio may have gotten inspiration to enact medical cannabis laws after reviewing California’s massive decline in opioid related deaths.

In the October 2014 publication of JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) they found that “states that implemented a medical cannabis program had on average 25% less drug overdoses than states that had no legislation in place.” Another study conducted by the NBER (National Bureau of Economic Research) validated JAMA’s findings. The 2015 NBER report “found that states with medical cannabis laws in place saw as much as a 35% reduction in substance abuse treatment admissions and a 31% reduction in opioid overdoses.”

“A study from June’s Journal of Pain concluded cannabis use was “associated with 64% lower opioid use in patients with chronic pain” in Michigan. In this month’s Health Affairs, researchers looked at prescriptions filled for Medicare Part D enrollees from 2010 to 2013 and found that prescriptions for medications in which marijuana could serve as an alternative “fell slightly” in states with medical marijuana laws.”

The list of reasons why cannabis should be legalized is growing by the day. Cannabis-As-A-Medicine is real and the health and economic benefits are proving just how absurd prohibition is. In a time when America is facing a significant health and economic crisis, it is finally time for cannabis to be legalized. The cannabis industry will be a driver of jobs, federal cost savings, tax revenue, and aid in the disturbing opioid epidemic.

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