Pubdate: Tue, 02 Sep 2014
Source: Tribune Review (Pittsburgh, PA)
Copyright: 2014 Robert Sharpe
Author: Robert Sharpe


In his column "High & 'near-broken societies'" , Ralph R. Reiland
notes that "(d)rug overdose deaths in Allegheny County are approaching
300 a year." New research published in the Journal of the American
Medical Association (JAMA) shows that states with medical marijuana
access have a 25-percent lower opioid overdose death rate than
marijuana prohibition states. The protective effect of medical
marijuana grows stronger over time. States with established medical
marijuana access had a 33-percent reduction in overdose deaths. This
research finding has huge implications for states like Pennsylvania
that are grappling with heroin and prescription narcotic overdoses.

The phrase "if it saves one life" has been used to justify all manner
of drug-war abuses. Legal marijuana access has the potential to save
thousands of lives. The substitution effect has been documented by
California practitioners long before the JAMA research.

Access to medical marijuana is positively correlated with a reduction
in both opioid and alcohol abuse. The marijuana plant is incapable of
causing an overdose death. Not even aspirin can make the same claim,
much less alcohol or prescription narcotics. Policymakers who are
serious about reducing overdose deaths will pursue long overdue
marijuana law reform.

Robert Sharpe

Washington, D.C.

The writer is a policy analyst with Common Sense for Drug Policy
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