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In States with Medical Marijuana, Deaths from Painkillers are Down, and Why Marijuana is Still Illegal

As many people are aware, marijuana is slowly becoming more acceptable, and legal, around the country. Ironically, and contradictorily, states that consider themselves “conservative”, as in for smaller government, seem to be the most reluctant to get the government out of people’s right to possess and use this plant. But, that is how upside down politics are these days. More and more evidence shows that marijuana is not the evil drug that the government and pharmaceutical lobby financed politicians want people to believe. As a result, some states are entering the 21st century and not prosecuting and incarcerating people who choose to use the cannabis plant.

One obvious reason that some states refuse to legalize marijuana, either for medicinal or recreational purposes, is because some companies have a strong financial interest in keeping marijuana illegal. It costs a lot of money to win elections these days, and those political positions are highly coveted. In many elected position, you do not work very hard, you get a great salary, you get great benefit and you get an outstanding retirement package. Believe it or not, government has voted for government to be compensated well. So, people really want these government jobs, and they need to raise the exorbitant amount of money it takes to win those jobs. The pharmaceutical lobby is one incredibly rich group that is willing to finance these campaigns and win those sweet jobs for candidates. According to Opensecrets.org, the pharmaceutical lobby contributed more than $235 million to politicians in 2015. Of course, anyone who knows anything about money knows that people or corporations do not expend that kind of money without expecting something in return. In the pharmaceutical lobby’s case, that return comes in the form of people using their products instead of a more natural, less harmful alternative. Like marijuana. Keeping marijuana illegal and ostracized is critical to ensure those continued profits for drug companies.

A recent article from Newsweek suggests that when marijuana becomes legal and more accessible, more people use marijuana in favor of processed drugs. As a result, it seems as if fewer people die. Positive statistics like this do not pay for expensive campaigns so who knows what effect reports like this will have. But, for the rest of us, it is instructive to understand this dynamic. The article mentions that deaths from overdoses from opioids have tripled since 1991. However, in states where marijuana has been legalized, at least for medicinal purposes, that dangerous trend has reversed. In those states, 25% fewer people have died from opioid overdoses from 1999 to 2010. That is a 300% increase in deaths versus a 25% decline. Those numbers are hard to ignore. One always has to be careful distinguishing between correlation and causation, but there are some things we know. People do not die from marijuana overdoses. People do die from pain pill overdoses. Using marijuana to treat various medical conditions can eliminate the need for painkillers or at least allow a person to reduce their dosage of, and reliance on, painkillers.

Hopefully, as marijuana becomes more acceptable, fewer people will rely on prescription drugs. The pharmaceutical companies will survive, and politicians can find other sources to fund the ever increasing price tags that come with winning an election.