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  • Ryan Wittler

Legal Access to Cannabis Is Linked to Less Demand for Some Prescription Drugs


A new study from researchers at Cornell University suggests the legalization of recreational cannabis reduces the demand for some costly prescription drugs.

Study highlights:

The study found giving people access to recreational cannabis led to “significant reductions” in the volume of prescriptions for drugs to treat anxiety (-12% prescription volume), depression (-11%), sleep (-11%), psychosis (-11%), seizures (-10%), and pain (-8%).

  • The researchers used data retrieved from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services covering all 50 states from 2011 to 2019.

  • The researchers chose that period because it coincided with a number of states permitting recreational cannabis use.

To date, 18 states and Washington, D.C. have legalized recreational cannabis, while 37 and D.C. have legalized medical use, according to recent data from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

Why it matters:

The researchers say the findings have “important implications,” including significant potential cost savings for state Medicaid programs and the opportunity to reduce the harms that can come from prescription drug abuse.

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