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Study gives reason to support Florida's medical marijuana amendment

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For Florida voters confused about whether to support the medical marijuana (cannabis) Amendment 2 (Florida Right to Medical Marijuana Initiative) on the November ballot, a new study just published in JAMA may help to relieve concerns.

One of the arguments for legalizing medical marijuana is that it is safer than opiods (narcotics) like oxycodone and percoset for chronic pain.

The study authors, led by the University of Pennsylvania's Dr. Marcus A. Bachhuber, wanted to know whether making medical marijuana legal would reduce deaths from opioid overdose which is an increasing problem in the US.

To conduct their analysis, the researchers looked at California, Oregon, and Washington - the 3 states that had medical cannabis laws passed before 1999 and 10 states (Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Vermont) that passed medical cannabis laws between 1999 and 2010. They then compared the numbers of opioid overdoses across all 50 states.

What they found was that those states with medical cannabis laws had almost a 25 percent decrease in opioid overdose mortality.

Almost two-thirds of Americans who die from opioid overdoses have legitimate prescriptions from their doctors. Because deaths from these overdoses were lower in states with legalized medical marijuana, the authors speculate that by also using medical marijuana for pain, legitimate opioid users may be taking lower doses of their prescribed opioids, accounting for the lower mortality.

While several oncologists (cancer specialists) who were questioned for this article felt this made sense, not everyone is convinced. Kevin Sabet, director of the University of Florida Drug Policy Institute, in a written statement said that more research needs to be done.

In the meantime, Florida voters will be going to the polls in November to decide whether doctors can legally prescribe medical marijuana to patients with chronic pain.

For more information: check out this video