Pills versus cannabis
Each day 91 people in the U.S. die from an opioid overdose.

America is in the grips of an opioid epidemic. Almost every time I turn on the news these days it seems like there is a news report about it.

I, like many Americans, have lost friends to opioid abuse. It's never an easy thing to deal with, and every tragedy leaves loved ones behind wondering if there was something that they could have done to prevent it.

In 2015 roughly 12.5 million Americans reported misusing prescription painkillers. Half of all deaths caused by drug overdoses are due to opioids.

President Trump has been looking for ways to combat the epidemic, discussing the matter with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in a recent meeting.

Unfortunately it is sounding more and more like the strategy from the White House will be to crack down hard and try to ramp up the War on Drugs in an attempt to arrest our way out of the problem.

As history has shown, that is not an effective strategy. What America needs is a strategy that has proven to reduce opioid use. Cannabis has been proven to do exactly that.

What do studies show?

In recent years quite a few studies have been conducted exploring how cannabis can help pain management. Interest in the topic has always been there, but has grown considerably with the rise in opioid abuse.

Essentially, cannabis has been proven to reduce patients' reliance on opioids.

A 2016 study concluded the following: "The treatment of chronic pain with medicinal cannabis in this open-label, prospective cohort resulted in improved pain and functional outcomes, and a significant reduction in opioid use.” 

Another study from 2016 found similar results:

“Among study participants, medical cannabis use was associated with a 64% decrease in opioid use (n = 118), decreased number and side effects of medications, and an improved quality of life (45%). This study suggests that many [Chronic Pain] patients are essentially substituting medical cannabis for opioids and other medications for CP treatment, and finding the benefit and side effect profile of cannabis to be greater than these other classes of medications.” – Boehnke KF, Litinas E, Clauw DJ. (2016)

On average, states that have legalized medical cannabis have seen a reduction in opioid overdose deaths of 25%. That's incredibly significant.

As these studies clearly show, as access to cannabis increases, use of opioids decreases. If the White House (or Chris Christie) truly wanted to battle the opioid epidemic effectively, they should consider increasing access to cannabis.

States are taking matters into their own hands

Most veteran cannabis activists that I know are not holding their breath for federal cannabis reform. Donald Trump has surrounded himself with anti-cannabis crusaders, and I don't see them changing their minds after all these decades. Having a Republican controlled Congress makes matters that much tougher.

Some members of the cannabis industry are more optimistic about the chances of reform happening at the federal level. While I respect their opinions, I think that their opinions are based on hope more than anything.

But this is not to say that there is nothing that can be done, because states can certainly take matters into their own hands, which is proving to be the case this legislative season.

Some of the states in America that have the worst cannabis laws are also the states that have the highest rates of opioid abuse.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, and Oklahoma all have some of the highest opioid use rates in the nation.

Each of these states fill between 96-143 opioid prescriptions per 100 people. Literally, many of the states listed dish out more prescriptions for opioids than there are people to use them. None of the states listed have a medical cannabis laws beyond unworkable CBD-only programs.

Many other states have slightly lower opioid use levels, but with the levels still being incredibly high. Idaho, Utah, Kansas, Missouri, and Georgia all fill between 82.2 and 95 opioid prescriptions per 100 people. They also do not have legal medical cannabis laws on the books.

Every single one of the states needs to take a serious look at legalizing medical cannabis if they truly want to help fix the problem and help suffering patients.

How can you help?

The number one way that you can help legalize medical cannabis in the previously mentioned states, and with it help reduce opioid use, is to contact elected officials in the legislatures of those states.

Most of the states that have legalized medical cannabis have done so via a citizen initiative. Unfortunately, most of the remaining states that have yet to legalize medical cannabis do not have citizen initiative processes in place.

Literally the only way to legalize at the state level in these areas is to do so via legislative action, which is not an easy task, especially in the more conservative states.

Representatives and Senators in state legislatures need to be educated on the topic of cannabis and its benefits. It is easy to let your passion get the best of you, as this is a very emotionally charged area of public policy.

Always remain calm when talking with elected officials. Establish that you are a concerned citizen and that you are trying to help.

Arm yourself with the facts, including some of the statistics provided in this article, and hit the politicians with math and studies, in addition to personal stories.

Your story is important and can be very powerful. And many politicians are not convinced by personal stories alone; they want  to see hard facts as to why they should support a public policy change. You can find plenty of useable facts throughout the Green Flower blog and Green Flower INSIDER.

You can find who your state legislators are at this link here.

Have you replaced opioids for cannabis?

Have you replaced opioids for cannabis?

yes
50%
no
17%
i know somebody who has
33%