Study: Legalized pot leads to fewer drug overdoses

(News-Press) -- As supporters of marijuana legalization will tell you, it's difficult — if not impossible — to die as a result of consuming too much of the drug.

Now, a new study provides the pro-pot crowd with more ammunition in their argument: States that have decriminalized medical marijuana saw nearly a 25 percent decline in overdose deaths from opiates and similar painkillers between 1999 and 2010.

"Medical cannabis laws are associated with significantly lower state-level opioid overdose mortality rates," according to the study published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association's publication Internal Medicine. "Further investigation is required to determine how medical cannabis laws may interact with policies aimed at preventing opioid analgesic overdose."

Study authors say further study is needed to determine why that might be happening. It's unclear, for instance, if other law enforcement or medical policies in the studied states led to a drop in opioid usage.

It seems unlikely that this kind of study will sway Florida law enforcement and medical groups to change their mind on the issue leading up to the Nov. 4 vote on Amendment 2. Both have come out strongly against legalized medical marijuana, arguing it could lead to inappropriate prescribing and more drug use statewide.

Florida is certainly no stranger to the nation's pain pill epidemic. And deaths from highly addictive opioid drugs like oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, heroin and methodone topped the list of Florida drug deaths in 2012 and 2013. Also big killers: Alcohol and cocaine.

Politifact noted last year that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has no reports of marijuana-induced deaths. (One oft-cited federal court review estimated the average adult would have to consume 1,500 pounds of it in 15 minutes for it to have a lethal effect.)

At least 60 percent of Florida voters must approve the medical marijuana proposal for it to pass.


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