Time and time again, politicians given an opportunity to speak on the merits or detriment of legalizing marijuana have foregone facts in favor of fear mongering.
One of the most used propaganda-points (and favorite of Attorney General Jeff Sessions) is the comparison of cannabis to opioids. And while we know that synthetic heroin and naturally grown cannabis aren’t even in the same ballpark, opponents of marijuana legalization have continually stressed the gateway theory, claiming that increased availability of weed will lead to higher rates of opioid abuse.
According to Reuters and a new study from the Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence, those theories have even less merit than we originally thought, as it turns out that in states with medical marijuana programs, hospitalization rates for opioid painkiller abuse have gone down a whopping 23%. In the same states, hospitals have seen opioid overdoses drop an average of 13%.
The numbers have given hope to medical professionals dedicated to slowing the country’s opioid obsession.
"It is becoming increasingly clear that battling the opioid epidemic will require a multi-pronged approach and a good deal of creativity," Dr. Esther Choo, a professor of emergency medicine at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, who was not involved in the study, told NBC News. "Could increased liberalization of marijuana be part of the solution? It seems plausible."
Yuyan Shi, author of the new study for the Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence looked at hospitals in 27 states from 1997-2014. Throughout that time frame, nine of the research states passed medical marijuana laws and saw a subsequent drop in pain pill hospitalization.
Shi’s study isn’t the first to correlate cannabis availability with a drop in opioid abuse, either. A 2016 study at Johns Hopkins University found that states with medical marijuana saw 25% less opioid-influenced deaths than states without legal weed.
So while Jeff Sessions - the most powerful lawyer in the nation - says things like, "I am astonished to hear people suggest that we can solve our heroin crisis by legalizing marijuana...so people can trade one life-wrecking dependency for another, " our country’s leading medical professionals are actually conducting research to find the truth.
"Instead, medical marijuana laws may have reduced hospitalizations related to opioid pain relievers," Shi concluded.