The effect of cannabis laws on opioid use

Int J Drug Policy. 2019 Dec;74:152-159. doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2019.09.013. Epub 2019 Oct 4.


Background: Many Americans rely on opioids at varying dosages to help ameliorate their suffering. However, empirical evidence is mounting that opioids are ineffective at controlling non-cancer related chronic pain, and many argue the strategies meant to relieve patient suffering are contributing to the growing opioid epidemic. Concurrently, several states now allow the use of medical cannabis to treat a variety of medical conditions, including chronic pain. Needing more exploration is the impact of cannabis laws on general opioid reliance and whether chronic pain sufferers are opting to use cannabis medicinally instead of opioids.

Methods: This study investigates the effect of Medical Marijuana Laws (MML)s on opioid use and misuse controlling for a number of relevant factors using data from several years of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health and multivariate logistic regression and longitudinal analysis strategies.

Results: Results provide evidence that MMLs may be effective at reducing opioid reliance as survey respondents living in states with medical cannabis legislation are much less apt to report using opioid analgesics than people living in states without such laws, net other factors. Results further indicate that the presence of medicinal cannabis legislation appears to have no influence over opioid misuse.

Conclusion: MMLs may ultimately serve to attenuate the consequences of opioid overreliance.

Keywords: Cannabis; Chronic pain management; Medical Marijuana Laws; Opioids.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Analgesics, Opioid / administration & dosage*
  • Chronic Pain / drug therapy*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Legislation, Drug*
  • Male
  • Medical Marijuana / administration & dosage*
  • Middle Aged
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • United States
  • Young Adult


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Medical Marijuana