Medical Marijuana Legalization Linked To ‘Significant Decrease’ In Opioid-Related Payments To Doctors, Study Finds

A new study is linking state-level medical marijuana legalization to reduced opioid payouts to doctors—another datapoint suggesting that patients use cannabis as an alternative to prescription drugs when given legal access.

The study from researchers at the University of Florida, University of Southern California and Purdue University identified “a significant decrease in direct payments from opioid manufacturers to pain medicine physicians as an effect of [medical marijuana law] passage” and found that “physicians in states with an MML are prescribing fewer opioids.”

Researchers developed a “novel penalized synthetic control model” to analyze transaction data involving direct payments from opioid manufacturers to physicians from 2014 to 2017, seeking to determine if medical cannabis legalization had a causal impact.

The study showed evidence that the decreased opioid manufacturer payments was “due to the availability of medical marijuana as a substitute.”