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USA: Cannabis study reveals that deaths from opiate overdose decrease when cannabis is legal

Emily Jones

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Marijuana is legal, on a recreational basis, in ten American states and in the Federal Capital of Washington DC.

American states where recreational cannabis is legal have seen a reduction of at least 20% in deaths from opiate overdose, according to a study released Wednesday.

Opiates killed 47,600 people in 2017 in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). That year, the epidemic was declared a “public health emergency” by President Donald Trump.

Marijuana, legal in 34 states and in Washington for therapeutic use, is also legal for recreational use in ten of these states, as well as in the American capital Washington, DC (and, starting next January, in the state of Illinois).

Cannabis and its derivatives are big business in the US. In the state of Colorado, for example (the first US state to legalize marijuana for recreational use), a small company by the name of West Coast Venture Group (OTC: WCVC) recently made headlines when it became America’s first CBD restaurant stock. CBD  (Cannabidiol) is a phytocannabinoid discovered in 1940. It represents one of some 113 identified cannabinoids in the cannabis plant and accounts for up to 40% of the plant’s extract.

WCVC’s Illegal Burger Writer Square location in Downtown Denver serves a “CBD infused” menu of items and is expected to generate over $1 million in sales this year while a second location (Denver CitiSet) is on track to exceed $700,000 in sales in its first full year of operations.

During the course the last fiscal year (2018), West Coast Venture Group earned $3,054,623 in revenue and witnessed consistent year-over-year growth. And the company expects this trend to continue well into 2019 and 2020. The first quarter of 2019 already saw year-over-year revenue growth of 21.55% in what is traditionally known as a slow slow quarter in the restaurant industry.

To further kickstart its growth, the company also recently announced the launch of its Illegal Pizza franchise, and it opened its first location on June 19, 2019 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. This location is expected to generate around $700,000 in revenues within the first twelve months of operation, and it will mark the first of many Illegal Pizza locations across the country.

But let’s stop digressing; back to the study… By comparing overdose death rates before and after legalization and between states at different stages of the legalization process, the authors of this study, which was published in the journal “Economic Inquiry”, determined a “very strong” causal effect in the reduction of opiate-related mortality.

This rate of decline stands between 20 and 35%, according to the econometric analysis, with a particularly marked effect on deaths caused by the consumption of opiates such as fentanyl, the most deadly drug in the United States, according to the latest official figures.

All states are affected by the rising opiate epidemic, Nathan Chan, an economist at Amherst University and lead author of the study, told the AFP.

“It is only fair that those states that have legalized are not as adversely affected as those that have not legalized,” he continued.

States that have legal access to marijuana through clinics have seen a greater decline in mortality than others, the authors note.

The study did not look at the factors responsible for the decline, but Nathan Chan suggests that these differences may be related to the increasing number of people who self-medicate and “relieve pain through marijuana use and are therefore less likely to become addicted to opiates.”

However, not everybody seems to be on the same page. A previous study had reached the opposite conclusion, namely that the use of cannabis increases the use of opiates not prescribed by prescription.

Online journalism and the expanse of the digital platform are what encouraged Emily to take a plunge into online journalism. She is quite new to online print media but she is a very good learner. She has great command over the English language which gives an edge to write compelling news articles.

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