Study: Legal Weed Prevents Opioid Deaths, Is Great Clickbait

(Jason Connolly/AFP/Getty Images)

For decades, alternative health advocates have made the case for legalizing marijuana, arguing that its medicinal properties provide a relatively safe alternative to alcohol and harder drugs.

And while establishment forces pushed back on that narrative, none could deny one truth about legal weed: it’s always done great as Internet clickbait.

But now a study published in the American Journal of Public Health suggests that legal marijuana might have yet another thing going for it: preventing opioid deaths.

To quote the study’s authors Melvin D. Livingston, Tracey E. Barnett, Chris Delcher and Alexander C. Wagenaar: “After Colorado’s legalization of recreational cannabis sale and use, opioid-related deaths decreased more than 6% in the following 2 years.

Yeah, remember how Colorado passed that 2012 ballot initiative that legalized recreational cannabis within the state? (Of course you do; you clicked on a weed article.) Well, the researchers studied a two-year period following the law’s implementation and found a compelling correlation between legal weed and the decline of opioid deaths.

Any scientist will tell you that correlation does not equal causation, and the study’s authors acknowledge that marijuana may cause other public risks, such as impaired driving. Nonetheless, marijuana is clearly the good guy in this story (which should do wonders for its clickbait potential).

The study comes at a critical juncture in America’s relationship with opioids, which continue to be the source of record-breaking overdoses that transcend race and gender. It’s also found its way to government, as President Trump’s pick for drug czar, Congressman Tom Marino, was forced to withdraw from consideration following revelations that he shielded major opioid manufacturers from the Drug Enforcement Agency, and kept their pills flowing to the people they were killing.

Marino hails from opioid-ravaged Pennsylvania, where marijuana is illegal, yet public anxiety is extremely high — mainly brought on by unemployment and prolonged exposure to Eagles fans.

Could the anxieties of Marino’s fellow Pennsylvanians be quelled by legal marijuana instead of opioids? And if so, would their opioid death rates decrease the way Colorado’s have?

Unfortunately we aren’t going to know any time soon. Because while Marino may not get to be drug czar, he’s still in Congress, and he’ll still be taking dumptrucks of cash from the Big Pharma companies that are pushing these opioids to his constituents.

In other words, unless his constituents move to a state where weed is legal, they’re going to have to get their high from clickbait articles about the stuff.

And hopefully not from opioids.