According to a new study recently published in the American Journal of Public Heath, Colorado’s legalization of recreational Marijuana in 2014 led to a “reversal” of the state’s upward trend in opioid-related deaths.
Indeed, while opioid deaths in Colorado were increasing steadily for several years prior to 2014 — the year recreational marijuana became legal in Colorado — they decreased by more than 6 percent during the following two years.
Details of the study
While there have been many studies that have examined the link between the legalization of medical marijuana and opioid-related deaths, this study, which is titled Recreational Cannabis Legalization and Opioid-Related Deaths in Colorado, is one of the first to look at the connection between recreational marijuana and opioid deaths.
According to a recent Washington Post article reviewing this study, researchers attempted to isolate the effect of recreational marijuana by comparing the number of opioid deaths in Colorado to that of Nevada, which, during the period reviewed, legalized medical marijuana but not recreational marijuana. The researchers also attempted to control for changes in Colorado’s prescription drug monitoring program.
Ultimately, after taking into account these extra variables, the researchers concluded that opioid-related deaths decreased by 6.5 percent in Colorado during the two years following the legalization of recreational marijuana.
However, the researchers stressed that this short-term drop in opioid deaths only encompasses two years of data, and that further research should be completed when “additional data becomes available.” Regardless of this additional data, though, this 6.5 percent drop is certainly good news, even if it has only been two years.