"The use of MC [Medical Cannabis] as an alternative to POMs [Prescription Opioid Medications] for pain management warrants additional empirical attention as a potential harm reduction strategy. NASEM (2017) recommends more clinical trials to elucidate appropriate MC forms, routes of administration, and combination of products for treating pain, but access to MC products to fully evaluate these questions is challenging due to federal regulations.
"The opioid epidemic is a public health crisis that is at least partially driven by harms associated with POM [Prescription Opioid Medication] use. States are passing laws allowing use of MC [Medical Cannabis] and patients are using MC, but currently there is little understanding of how this influences POM use or of MC-related harms. This literature review provides preliminary evidence that states with MC laws have experienced reported decreases in POM use, abuse, overdose, and costs.
"In an analysis of death certificate data from 1999 to 2010, we found that states with medical cannabis laws had lower mean opioid analgesic overdose mortality rates compared with states without such laws. This finding persisted when excluding intentional overdose deaths (ie, suicide), suggesting that medical cannabis laws are associated with lower opioid analgesic overdose mortality among individuals using opioid analgesics for medical indications.
"It is clear, however, that cannabis use did not compromise substance abuse treatment amongst the medical marijuana using group. In fact, medical marijuana users seemed to fare equal to or better than non-medical marijuana users in every important outcome category. Movement from more harmful to less harmful drugs is an improvement worthy of consideration by treatment providers and policymakers. The economic cost of alcohol use in California has been estimated at $38 billion .
"Eighty five percent of the BPG [Berkeley Patients Group] sample reported that cannabis has much less adverse side effects than their prescription medications. Additionally, the top two reasons listed by participants as reasons for substituting cannabis for one of the substances previously mentioned were less adverse side effects from cannabis (65%) and better symptom management from cannabis (57.4%).