This should get lawmakers and clinicians talking. A new study from Penn State is linking the legalization of marijuana with a 25 percent lower rate of painkiller overdose deaths. The pain medication studied were opioids, including OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet.

Researchers say they aren’t sure why the use of marijuana has led to the reduction in deaths, but they looked at all overdose data from 1999 to 2010. In 1999, California, Oregon and Washington were the first states to legalize medical marijuana. Now, 13 states have some form of legalization for medicinal use.

Over 60% of those that died from opioid overdose actually had valid prescriptions for the drug. The strength and accidental mixing of drugs has led to an epidemic of overdoses. Whereas, can you actually find a legitimate overdose death from marijuana? Good luck, you’ll probably need some munchies on that quest.

The study authors are still towing the federal line of not being sure if there is a medical benefit for marijuana. Dr. Marcus Bachhuber said in a release further study is needed. “In addition, people already taking opioids for pain may supplement with medical marijuana and be able to lower their painkiller dose, thus lowering their risk of overdose.”

Then study it. The federal government should open up research into the drug as a possible replacement to opioid medications. Or, at the very least, a supplement. We all know they aren’t going to completely kill off the drug manufacturers’ cash cow.

The study showed that states with medical marijuana laws on the books have a 24.8 percent lower opioid overdose mortality rate. That is reason in itself to open up broad-based studies and start decriminalizing pot.

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Over the past decade, the number of people being turned to opioid medications has reached epidemic levels. If it turns out marijuana can be safely administered and cut off opioid overdose deaths, then I think it’s high time the public at large demands action at the federal level.

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