Study: Colorado’s Adult Use Cannabis Access Law Associated With Reductions In Opioid Deaths

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director October 13, 2017

    Legalize marijuanaRetail cannabis distribution in Colorado is associated with a reduction in opioid-related mortality, according to data published online ahead of print in The American Journal of Public Health.

    A team of investigators from the University of North Texas School of Public Health, the University of Florida, and Emory University compared changed in the prevalence of monthly opioid-related deaths before and after Colorado retailers began selling cannabis to adults.

    They reported: “Colorado’s legalization of recreational cannabis sales and use resulted in a 0.7 deaths per month reduction in opioid-related deaths. This reduction represents a reversal of the upward trend in opioid-related deaths in Colorado.”

    Authors concluded, “Legalization of cannabis in Colorado was associated with short-term reductions in opioid-related deaths.”

    Their data is consistent with prior studies finding that cannabis access is associated with reductions in prescription drug spending, opioid-related hospitalizations, and opioid-related fatalities.

    An abstract of the study, “Recreational cannabis legalization and opioid-related deaths in Colorado, 2000-2015,” appears online here.

    19 responses to “Study: Colorado’s Adult Use Cannabis Access Law Associated With Reductions In Opioid Deaths”

    1. Julian says:

      People copy these links and save them for the letter to our Congressman on the CARERS act by tapping the ACT tab on this webpage. This is gold. (Not like Alcapulco Gold, but you know, valuable information).

      There was a really fascinating and informative interview on NPR’s “Think” with Dr. Robert H. Lustig today. While I’m hesitant to promote anyone’s book on this website for legal reasons, after listening to this man mention marijuana helping PTSD and simply reducing processed foods and sugars from our diet down to the omega 3s in algae only wild fish eat I’m at least going to name his book without the link;
      It’s called “Hacking the American Mind: The Science Behind the Corporate Take Over of Our Bodies and Brains.”
      I was waiting on hold to get my question answered about whole plant marijuana treating depression and opiate addiction by restoring homeostasis to the endocannabinoid system when he at least mentioned marijuana treatment for depression and PTSD. I encourage everyone to call into radio shows and get marijuana reform going in the conversation. Don’t forget the JAMA reports on reduction of opiate addiction in states with legal whole plant cannabis. And if a state or federal legislator says they have “alternative evidence” DEMAND IT IN WRITING. (Or put your phone on video).

      • Julian says:

        Dr Lustig mentioned *”…marijuana helping treat PTSD…” (and the depression and opiate crisis).

    2. Julian says:

      In this article by Alternet…
      …by contributing editor Lynn Paramore follows a lawsuit by attorney Daniel Berger that implicates the Sacklers, owners of Perdue Pharmaceuticals who make oxycontin and suggests

      ” “We have to have injunctive relief [a court order to stop a behavior] that bans the marketing to doctors of opioids completely for unapproved uses, as well as an expansion of the FDA and DEA to specifically target the drugs,” says Berger. His law firm, Berger & Montague, is involved in the effort to seek relief for the city of Philadelphia, which has seen above-average opioid prescribing and suffered the highest rates of fatal drug overdoses in the state last year.”

      Alternet often publishes articles defending the medical efficacy of marijuana, sometimes written by NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano, so I was rather shocked the article did not mention marijuana legalization’s ability to reduce opiate addiction and suicides.

      Nonetheless I am intruiged by Berger’s confidence he can get an injunction to force the DEA to go after the Sacklers when the DEA rescheduled oxycontin just a few years ago causing a drastic increase in opiate mortality and put the Sacklers on the top ten list of billionaires at Forbes.

      But this is the City of Philadelphia suing the Sacklers. And Berger is the lawyer that went after Big Tobacco and won. This guy isn’t after just profit; he wants an injunction to stop overprescription… but it looks like a real opportunity to sue the DEA over lethal scheduling of marijuana, kratom and oxycontin.
      Can NORML advise this case? Or should we focus on the Washington v. Sessions, DEA case?

    3. Julian says:

      Marijuana strains are quietly being patented even before marijuana is being legalized federally in a prospecting preparation for post prohibition at the federal level. Here is a Business Insider article from back in July that gives a general breakdown of why no patent infringement lawsuits will occur until after marijuana is legalized federally;


      As NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano explains, in order to patent a plant we are not limited for plants to be genetically engineered; it only has to be genetically modified. This is disturbing news because virtually every strain available in state markets are genetically modified through cloning, hybridization and intense manipulation of THC and various cannabinoids through the mapped genome of cannabis.

      Marijuana activists are more often familiar with the US government’s patent on cannabinoids as neuroprotectants 6630507:


      Here are some intellectual property guidelines on cannabis plant patenting;


      The most disturbing part of plant patent law as marger-johnson explains is that marijuana can and is being patented in the following ways:

      “In the United States, intellectual property protection for breeders’ strains under the UPOV Convention last 20 years and can be sought in 3 ways:

      Plant Variety Protection (through the Department of Agriculture (USDA))
      Plant Patent (through the Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO))
      Utility Patent (through the USPTO)”

    4. Julian says:

      One such “utility patent” goes so far as to claim “the entirety of the plant cannabis sativa”

      (Claim number 11).

      Long ago when I first discovered the US government’s hypocritical patent on cannabinoids 6630507 (currently under litigation in the Washington v. Sessions case), I determined the only way to prevent a big Agriculture/Pharma quasi prohibition by Monsanto-Bayer post federal legalization is to make all cannabis strains and denominatons OPEN SOURCE.. And looking forward, we as marijuana activists better get on with this task now because private companies are applying for cannabis patents at an excelerated rate that should give us pause to think about the phrase “We are what we eat,” if what we consume is being modified and patented for a future monopoly to exploit and price hike.

    5. Victor says:

      Access goes up, overdoses go down. Between this and its long list of medical applications, how many more reasons do we really need to end this silly war against ourselves?

    6. mexweed says:

      Not to complain about the attention given to opioid-related deaths, 33,000 a year in USA, but the gorilla in the room remains 480,000 USA tobacco-related deaths of which over 90% are brought about by the 700-mg hot burning overdose monoxide $iggerrette “format” which kills somewhat slower– average life expectancy loss 10-15 years?– but costs the US economy $289-Bil. a year according to 2014 Surgeon General estimate. Not to mention 6,000,000-a-year death figure worldwide driven by aggressive $ig marketing in “developing countries”.
      Isn’t it time for NORML to get busy against the combustion monster? The Australian Department of Health issued a document describing the JOINT as a “Trojan Horse” luring children to try– and get hooked on– the nicotine overdose. Admittedly in the context that in Europe and Commonwealth countries there is a quaint habit of mixing cannabis and tobacco in a $iggerette and claiming, “We’re smokin’ cannabis!” But in the USA we have the “Blunt”– one sees piles of discarded cigar tobacco (considered “too harsh to inhale”) as users kept the nicotine-laden skins to wrap 1000-mgh cannabis megadoses in.
      Don’t fall for the fallacy that vaporizers are too expensive– just put a flexible drawtube on the butt end of a one-hitter (which you can make yourself, goog “Make Pipes from Everyday Objects”) and a cup-shaped screen in the craterchamber, and follow the jinglemantra, “Hold flametip 2″ below, suck smoooooth, slow, don’t start glow till after 19 seconds or so.”

    7. Julian says:

      Some poor pharmacist in DC that supplies prescriptions to the House of Representatives, their staffers and family will be hiding from Congress for a while since he spilled the beans that more than HALF of our Reps are taking meds for alzheimers!


      As Independent news from the Young Turks point out, no worries, “Congress doesn’t read what they pass anyway; they just read the e-mails from their donors that tells them which way to vote.”

      But let’s just say we won’t name names over politicians who make vitally important executive or legislative decisions that may very well not remember what they do or say from one minute to the next.

      Good news is according to a recent sample survey of 1,368 participants in the DC metropolitan area by Green Economics who partenered with Consumer Research Around Cannabis…



      …%55 of pot smokers in our nation’s capitol are white collar workers… and here’s the kicker, %38 were more likely to have government jobs. Considering what’s at stake for a Federal employee or Representative to admit they consume marijuana these are fairly impressive numbers.

      They are also relieving numbers since ongoing research from places like the Salk Institute in Santa Monica continue to show that THC attacks the two proteins that cause alzheimer’s. Vaporizing or injesting marijuana is recommendable for alzheimer’s patients because the increased antioxidants absorbed help remove plaque build up in the brain which contributes to foggy memory or dimentia.

      I always knew that the only way to legalize marijuana or save Congress from themselves was to get Congress stoned… _\|/_

      • Julian says:

        Sidenote: The only active Congressman to admit active marijuana consumption is current Republican Representative Dana Rohrabacher, CA, whose legalization-saving amendment we can support by clicking on the Act tab on this webpage.

    8. Mark Mitcham says:

      Nice facts. But we’re not negotiating with persuadable people here. We’re up against fascism. And we cannot defeat marijuana prohibition so long as we live under a fascist authoritarian government.

      We became a fascist authoritarian regime when Trump seized power. Therefore, defeating Trump and the GOP now must be our first priority.

      Don’t think Trump is a fascist?
      From Chauncey DeVega/Salon:

      During the 2016 campaign and now as president, Donald Trump has met almost every criteria of a fascist leader adapted to fit American society.

      He has contempt for democratic norms and procedures, and has repeated undermined them;
      He has threatened violence against his political enemies;
      He espouses militant nationalism;
      He is patriarchal, hyper-masculine and misogynist;
      He uses racism, ethnocentrism and bigotry to advance his political goals;
      He lies compulsively in order to twist reality to his will and keep supporters enthralled;
      He stokes a sense of racial grievance and victimhood among his voters;
      He acts with contempt and utter disregard for the law;
      He uses his position as president to personally enrich himself, his family and his political allies;
      He openly admires authoritarian leaders from other countries;
      Through voter purges and other means, he is trying to ensure a permanent Republican majority and de facto one-party state;
      He believes in “blood and soil” racism;
      He is trying to remove any regulations or other types of restrictions on corporations;
      He appears to be a malignant narcissist who believes he is above the law;
      He grants pardons to his political allies;
      He has utter contempt for freedom of the press and the concept of “checks and balances”;
      He encourages police and other paramilitary forces to abuse racial and ethnic minorities;
      He has been acclaimed by white supremacist and other right-wing fascist groups as their leader.

    9. saferinneworleans says:

      I hope everyone reads this, and also reads The Washington Post’s report on opiate deaths and the U.S. House and Senate’s unleashing of the pharmaceutical industry on the American people. It’s terrible. This is definitely a war on SOME drugs. And not others. The DEA has become “99 percent” partners with the opiate interests; no wonder they oppose the legalization of marijuana, the safer alternative.

    10. Julian says:

      For anyone who didn’t catch the Post article Sunday that reveals how Rep. Tom Marino, PA pushed the law to keep the DEA from going after opiate manufacturers, distributors and black markets;


      Obama even signed the bill and everyone declines to speak stating they didnt know what was in the bill since the DEA didnt advise against it before it was signed. One of the biggest doners is CVS Health that backed Jeff Sessions political career. Meanwhile more than 90 Americans die per day from opiate overdose and/or suicide.

      And now Trump wants Marino to be drug czar.

      Marino called the police on the Post for visiting his office.

      Now let’s call our Congressman and tell them to block the nomination of Tom Marino to Drug Czar!

      Congressional Switchboard: