Legalizing Marijuana Might Not Prevent Opioid-Related Deaths

Five years ago, a team of researchers rifling through death certificate data uncovered an unexpected trend: Opioid-related deaths were a whopping 25 percent lower in the 13 states that had legalized medical marijuana, compared to those that hadn’t.

There was nothing in the study that demonstrated a causal link between the two statistics, and the authors cautioned against overinterpreting the findings. Regardless, advocates for legal cannabis quickly began to leverage the study as evidence that medical marijuana, which could offer an alternative to prescription painkillers for patients with chronic pain, could become the next big thing in the fight against the opioid epidemic.

Now, new research published today in the journal PNAS suggests the story is far more complicated, Olga Khazan reports for The Atlantic. The study, which used methods identical to its 2014 predecessor, also found that, between 1999 and 2010, opioid-related deaths declined in states that had

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