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2 Marijuana Legalization Myths Debunked: It Doesn't Increase Recreational Use But Also Doesn't Reduce Opioid Deaths

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There is good news or bad news about medical marijuana, perhaps depending on which side you stand on. Two new studies just debunked two common myths about the social effects of medical marijuana. The studies revealed that there is little evidence to show medical marijuana legalization as a gateway to increase recreational marijuana use, or as a viable solution to the opioid epidemic in the country.

2 New Studies

California was the first state in the country to legalize marijuana for medical use in 1996. Since then, the debate regarding the effects of medical marijuana or even the legalization of it has ensued. A common belief among those opposed to medical marijuana legalization is that it could increase the incidence of recreational marijuana use among adolescents. Conversely, advocates claim that medical marijuana could help combat the opioid crisis.

Two new studies, both published in the journal Addiction, puts a stop to both claims as they found that neither has enough evidence to back either claim.

Legalization Does Not Lead To Ramp Up In Recreational Use

To study the effects of medical marijuana legalization on marijuana use prevalence among adolescents, researchers reviewed 11 studies which came from large, long-term national surveys dating back from 1991. The studies they reviewed were the ones that passed their screening which began with 2,999 papers.

In all 11 studies, researchers found no significant changes in marijuana use prevalence among adolescents from pre- to post- medical marijuana legalization in the states that legalized up to the year 2014 compared to the states that did not legalize in the same period. Basically, the current evidence does not support the hypothesis that medical marijuana legalization leads to increases in recreational marijuana use among adolescents.

Not A Solution For The Opioid Epidemic

The supposed relationship between marijuana legalization and the opioid epidemic is fairly simple. According to some advocates and researchers, an increase in access to medical marijuana has reduced the opioid overdose deaths in the country. The idea behind this is that as cannabinoids have been shown to reduce pain and pose a significantly lower risk for an overdose, they could be a viable replacement for opioids.

However, researchers of the second study believe that the correlation between the two is as weak as the correlation between ice cream sales and drowning rates. That is, there is no proof that one causes the other. Though some studies have shown a correlation between medical marijuana legalization and a reduction in opioid deaths, there is no evidence to show that the increased access to marijuana was the cause of the death reduction.

In fact, they state that the evidence to prove the positive correlation is quite weak and therefore it is still too early to tell whether marijuana legalization leads to fewer opioid deaths. Essentially, with regard to both studies, further review and analysis is needed before making any claims about the effects of medical marijuana legalization or of any drug for that matter.

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