States that allow medical marijuana have 25 percent fewer prescription drug overdose deaths, a team of researchers reports in a newly released academic paper, suggesting that expanded access to marijuana, often used for its purported pain-alleviating qualities, could have unintended benefits. The researchers found that states with medical marijuana laws consistently had lower overdose death rates throughout the years studied — 1999 to 2010 — and that such laws were associated with a 24.8 percent lower annual rate of painkiller overdose deaths.
Those states had 1,729 fewer overdose deaths in 2010 than would have been predicted by trends in states without such laws. Although the results seem to suggest that the availability of marijuana may lure people away from prescription drugs, the researchers caution against drawing that conclusion too decisively. Factors specific to each state, such as attitudes about health, could explain the association between marijuana laws and overdose deaths, for example. Keep an open mind, what do you think?