As Florida prepares to vote on permitting physicians to recommend use of medical marijuana to patients with debilitating conditions, a new report adds another angle to the debate.
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in August found fewer narcotic painkiller overdose deaths in states with medical marijuana laws.
"The enactment of medicinal marijuana laws is associated with significantly lower state-level opioid overdose mortality rates," the report stated.
Investigators analyzed death certificate data from 1999 to 2010, a time span in which 13 states adopted cannabis therapy laws.
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States with those laws had a decrease in opioid overdose rates by an average of 20 percent a year after medical cannabis legalization, 25 percent by two years and up to 33 percent by years five and six.
In hard figures, the study estimated those 13 states had about 1,700 fewer overdose deaths in 2010 alone. Nationwide, opiate-induced deaths stood at fewer than 4,100 in 1999 but soared to more than 16,600 by 2010, U.S. Centers for Disease Control figures show.
But, as the report states, the findings only suggest "a link between medical cannabis laws and lower opioid analgesic mortality."
That's a strong link, though, and food for thought as the November vote on Amendment 2 arrives.