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What reductions
in opioid deaths?
The two graphs in this story show why policymakers need data. Media stories claim repeatedly that states that legalize marijuana for medical use see reductions in opioid deaths. Not so, as the actual number of opioid deaths in medical marijuana states illustrates in both graphs. Yet policymakers are racing to pass new or extend existing medical marijuana laws in the misguided belief that marijuana will reduce opioid deaths in their states.
By the end of 2015, 23 states and the District of Columbia had legalized marijuana for medical use and four of those had legalized the drug for recreational use. (More legalized in 2016 but none had implemented programs that year.)
Since the 23 states legalized marijuana for medical use, opioid deaths doubled in Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington State; nearly doubled in Illinois and New York; tripled in Colorado; nearly tripled in Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont; nearly quadrupled in Alaska and New Jersey; and rose by factors of more than 4 in Connecticut, more than 6 in Washington DC, and more than 11 in Maine.
Only one state, Montana, had a reduction in opioid deaths – from 45 to 42 – but that state’s medical marijuana program was tied up in litigation and did not become viable until 2017.
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Data source: The Kaiser Family Foundation analyzed opioid death data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 1999 through 2016. See here.
See our data calculations here.

Does commercializing marijuana for medical or recreational purposes
increase use?
You decide.
The following graphs are from the most recent 2015-2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health State Estimates. All three graphs are based on a 40 percent horizontal axis, set by past-month marijuana use among young adults in Vermont, ages 18 to 25, whose use (38.16 percent) is greater than any other age group in any state.
Graphing these data on the same axis allows us to see that past-month marijuana use is up to three times greater among young adults (18-25) and older adults (26 and older) and about two and one-half times greater in states that commercialize the drug compared to states that do not.
See data source here.
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The Marijuana Report is a weekly e-newsletter published by National Families in Action in partnership with SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana).

Visit National Families in Action's website, The Marijuana Report.Org, to learn more about the marijuana story unfolding across the nation.

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Our mission is to protect children from addictive drugs
by shining light on the science that underlies their effects.

Addictive drugs harm children, families, and communities.
Legalizing them creates commercial industries that make drugs more available,
increase use, and expand harms.

Science shows that addiction begins in childhood.
It is a pediatric disease that is preventable.
We work to prevent the emergence of commercial
addictive drug industries that will target children.

We support FDA approved medicines.

We support the assessment, treatment, and/or social and educational services
for users and low-level dealers as alternatives to incarceration.

About SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana)
SAM is a nonpartisan alliance of lawmakers, scientists and other concerned citizens who want to move beyond simplistic discussions of "incarceration versus legalization" when discussing marijuana use and instead focus on practical changes in marijuana policy that neither demonizes users nor legalizes the drug. SAM supports a treatment, health-first marijuana policy.  SAM has four main goals:
  • To inform public policy with the science of today's marijuana.
  • To reduce the unintended consequences of current marijuana policies, such as lifelong stigma due to arrest.
  • To prevent the establishment of "Big Marijuana" - and a 21st-Century tobacco industry that would market marijuana to children.
  • To promote research of marijuana's medical properties and produce, non-smoked, non-psychoactive pharmacy-attainable medications.

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