The enactment of medicinal marijuana laws is associated with significantly lower state-level opioid overdose mortality rates, according to data published online today in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine.
A team of investigators from the University of Pennsylvania, the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore conducted a time-series analysis of medical cannabis laws and state-level death certificate data in the United States from 1999 to 2010 — a period during which 13 states instituted laws allowing for cannabis therapy.
Researchers reported, “States with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8% lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states without medical cannabis laws.” Specifically, overdose deaths from opioids decreased by an average of 20 percent one year after the law’s implementation, 25 percent by two years, and up to 33 percent by years five and six.
They concluded, “In an analysis of death certificate data from 1999 to 2010, we found that states with medical cannabis laws had lower mean opioid analgesic overdose mortality rates compared with states without such laws. This finding persisted when excluding intentional overdose deaths (ie, suicide), suggesting that medical cannabis laws are associated with lower opioid analgesic overdose mortality among individuals using opioid analgesics for medical indications. Similarly, the association between medical cannabis laws and lower opioid analgesic overdose mortality rates persisted when including all deaths related to heroin, even if no opioid analgesic was present, indicating that lower rates of opioid analgesic overdose mortality were not offset by higher rates of heroin overdose mortality. Although the exact mechanism is unclear, our results suggest a link between medical cannabis laws and lower opioid analgesic overdose mortality.”
In a written statement to Reuters Health, lead author Dr. Marcus Bachhuber said: “Most of the discussion on medical marijuana has been about its effect on individuals in terms of reducing pain or other symptoms. The unique contribution of our study is the finding that medical marijuana laws and policies may have a broader impact on public health.”
Added co-author Colleen L. Barry in USA Today: “[The study's findings] suggest the potential for many lives to be saved. … We can speculate … that people are completely switching or perhaps supplementing, which allows them to lower the dosage of their prescription opioid.”
Nationwide, overdose deaths involving opioid analgesics have increased dramatically over the past decade. While fewer than 4,100 opiate-induced fatalities were reported for the year 1999, by 2010 this figure rose to over 16,600 according to an analysis by the US Centers for Disease Control.
An abstract of the JAMA study, “Medical Cannabis Laws and Opioid Analgesic Overdose Mortality in the United States, 1999-2010,” appears online here.
Think you know a lot about cannabis and it’s history? Could you relate the ‘history of hemp’, thousands of years worth of human experience, in just four minutes and twenty seconds?
Comedian and pot activist extraordinaire Steve Berke’s 4 Twenty Today production company’s first video ‘History of Marijuana in Four Minutes and Twenty Seconds’ achieves such in high fashion and invoking laughter all the way.
Two of Steve’s previous pro-cannabis law reform pot song parodies are found here, the Macklemore parody has been seen by almost 14 million viewers:
The next production of 4 Twenty Today is set for release on September 8th (an absolutely hysterical parody of a classic American movie musical!), which is meant to correspond as being supportive for this fall’s big election in Florida on Amendment Two (which will legalize medical access for qualifying patients if 60% of the voters approve the initiative).
First and foremost, Hempfest is truly an enormous undertaking that requires several days of long hours to assemble the stages and hundreds of individual exhibitor and vendor booths; three days of long hours to manage, including a security team to guard the park overnight and provisions to feed the hundreds of volunteers each day; and then several days of equally long hours to disassemble everything, clean the grounds and replace any damaged turf.
And keep in mind this is an all-volunteer event sponsored by Seattle Events, a not-for-profit corporation, and is also free to the public. The event costs the Hempfest organization nearly $900,000 to put on, and that money is raised largely from vendors, exhibitors and sponsors. The volunteer effort is headed by Hempfest co-founder and Executive Director Vivian McPeak. McPeak leads a core group of volunteers who meet year around to plan for the next Hempfest, and who run a downtown store called Hempfest Central selling all sorts of hemp-based products.
There are three primary stages (the Share Parker Memorial Main Stage; the Peter McWilliams Memorial Stage; and the Ralph Seeley Memorial Stage, all named for beloved legalization activists who are no longer with us) spread along a narrow piece of parkland called the Myrtle Edwards Park. The park extends more than a mile along the downtown Seattle waterfront, from which an array of bands perform each day, with several speakers scheduled for brief 5-minute speeches between music sets (while the next band is setting-up). Some of the prominent speakers this year included Congressman Dana Rohrabacher from CA, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes and public television travel guru and author (and NORML board member) Rick Steves.
Earlier today, the Democratic Party of Oregon came out in support of Measure 91, which would legalize and regulate the adult use, cultivation, and sale of marijuana in the state.
These endorsements were made by a “voting body comprised of the State Central Committee delegates, alternates, and associates.” A measure required a two-thirds vote for or against for the Party to take an official position.
In a press release highlighting their supportive position, the Democratic Party of Oregon stated that “a majority of Americans and large majority of Democrats now support state regulation of legal marijuana use. Measure 91 is the right approach to legalization in Oregon, strictly regulating use while funding law enforcement and schools. Vote Yes on 91.”
You can read the full release here.
You can learn more about Measure 91, including ways you can donate or volunteer, by visiting their website here.
NORML will be providing much more coverage on this and other ballot initiatives as election season heats up. Stay tuned.
As I prepared to leave for the Seattle Hempfest, a lovely celebration of all things related to marijuana, I could not help but think about what a wonderful time it is right now for those of us who smoke marijuana. We have the best quality marijuana in the world grown right here in the US, and even in those regions of the country that do not yet offer legal marijuana, the selection of different strains on the black market is outstanding. Of course, in those states with some version of legal marijuana, that selection is also conveniently available in retail outlets (at least for those who qualify).
When I began smoking marijuana in the mid-1960s, the question we generally asked the dealer-man was simple: do you have anything available? It was a simple yes-or-no question; and seldom did he have more than one or two strains. And worst of all, during the late summer and early fall, while we were waiting for the marijuana harvest to finish and work its way through the inefficient black market network from field to consumer, most years we experienced what we called a “drought.” During these droughts, there was simply no marijuana available, or at least nothing other than ditchweed, which was not worth smoking. Those dry periods would usually last for several weeks. But eventually we would get the word that the supply system was once again working, and we could again stock-up with a supply of adequate, but seldom great weed.
As best I can recall, I generally paid about $60 per ounce, so the cost was affordable, and there was usually an even less expensive version for those who were looking for a bargain, although I think most of that lower quality marijuana was likely headed for the college campuses all across America. According to a recent article published by the IvyGate website, citing a review of pot prices at all Ivy League schools published by the Yale Daily News in 1971, prices at the Ivy League colleges at the time were as low $8 and as high as $25 (for the best quality, usually obtained from Vietnam vets) per ounce. And the quality of what we then thought of as good marijuana would not compare favorably with what we routinely get today, whether from the black market or from a legal market.