5 Benefits of Cannabis Legalization
Thirty two states have legalized cannabis for medical use and ten have legalized recreational cannabis use. Canada has had a medical cannabis program since 2001 and recently legalized adult use across the country. Uruguay decriminalized the consumption of all formerly illicit drugs and installed regulations. More recently Peru, Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, The Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Norway, Germany, Italy, and Greece have all legalized medical cannabis along with several other countries. Sweeping change like this usually brings about new ideas and hopefully the demise of outdated opinions. So we asked, how have we benefited from cannabis legalization?
Opioid Use is Down in Legal Jurisdictions
Opioid addiction claimed the lives of over 49,000 people across the United States in 2017, in Canada more than 8,000 people have succumbed to overdose death since 2016. We are in the midst of an international epidemic and something must be done.
Opioids are a class of pain medications that work by binding to the opioid receptors in the human body. They are extremely effective at relieving pain but also extremely addictive and frequently over prescribed without an appropriate safe guard against potential addiction or overdose. The journal JAMA Internal Medicine published a study that suggests that medical cannabis is effective in relieving symptoms of chronic and neuropathic pain.
Additionally, a correlation between states that have legalized cannabis use and a pattern of reduction in opioid related deaths has emerged in recent years. "There has been substantive evidence that marijuana can relieve pain at a lower risk of addiction than opioids and with virtually no risk of overdose," said Hefei Wen, an assistant professor of health management and policy at the University of Kentucky College of Public Health in Lexington, Kentucky.
The rates of fatal opioid overdoses were significantly decreased in the states with with medical cannabis laws as compared to the rest of the country in the years between 1999 and 2010.
Youth Usage Rates Unchanged
Authorities in Colorado where recreational cannabis use was made legal in 2014 expected to see a rise in the number of underage consumers but reports so far indicate that usage rates have stayed relatively stable. Interim chief medical officer of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Dr. Tista Ghosh told CBC News that adult usage remained pretty static until this year when authorities noted a slight uptick among 18 –25-year olds.
The rate of Impaired Driving Incidents is Down
“The reassuring thing is that we did not see, in the evidence that we reviewed, any significant increases in driving fatalities or accidents associated with legalization.” said UBC’s Michael-John Milloy one of the authors of a study written pre-legalization by a group of physicians and researchers for the Canadian Senate. The study looked at traffic accident deaths in Washington and Colorado and indicted that alcohol related road deaths decreased in states with legal cannabis.
Economic Gains to be had
The cannabis industry is the fastest growing industry in North America, expected to be worth $50 billion annually worldwide by 2026. Forbes.com predicts that with a budget of $1.3 trillion in health care spending, European government-subsidized health care systems will create a situation where the medical cannabis market dominates Europe and becomes the largest medical marijuana market in the world. Meanwhile, there are now ninety publicly traded cannabis companies in Canada with a combined market value of $31 billion. The South American medical cannabis market is predicted to reach $776 million by 2027.
What does all this really mean though?
More jobs for one thing, health care costs are going down and law enforcement and judiciary resources are no longer being diverted to deal with illicit cannabis.
More Research is getting done
A massive benefit to legalization is an increase in available funding and licenses for research, allowing for a deeper examination of the effects of cannabinoids and cannabis therapy.
Frontiers in Pharmacology has the results from a 2017 study that took data from 2,830 Releaf App™ users who self-reported "statistically and clinically significant therapeutic benefits" after using cannabis. Responders were using medical cannabis to treat a variety of health complaints the most frequent of which were pain, anxiety and symptoms relating to depression. Researchers found that the greater the pre-dose symptom, the greater the sense of relief and they concluded that patient managed cannabis use is associated with clinically significant improvements in pain relief. Four hundred and nine people with a diagnosis of insomnia participated in yet another Releaf App™ study entitled Effectiveness of Raw, Natural Medical Cannabis Flower for Treating Insomnia under Naturalistic Conditions this past spring. In this study, researchers found that there was an average symptom severity reduction of −4.5 points on a –10 point visual analogue scale. Interestingly researcher here found that when the method of consumption was pipes or vaporizers, participants reported greater symptom relief.