Canada's ongoing war on cannabis causes harm and death in many ways. There's the people sometimes injured and killed in cannabis raids, there's the people who suffer or die because they don't have access to cannabis medicines, there's the murderers and violent criminals all across the country who won't ever face trial because our courts are clogged with pot cases, and there's the increased opioid overdose deaths that come when dispensaries are not available.
This last point is especially relevant right now, as Canada is in the middle of a fentanyl crisis, with many deaths every day across the country. One effective way to fight this crisis is to increase access to cannabis!
Two major studies in the US have found that the states which have cannabis dispensaries have much lower rates of opioid use and deaths.
A major study in 2015 found that states with legal cannabis dispensaries had up to 31% lower rate of deaths from prescription opioid overdoses. Researchers noted that the longer the legal cannabis dispensaries were in place, the more the rate of opioid-related problems declined.
This makes sense, because cannabis is often used as a pain reliever, just like opioids are. When people have easy access to a safer pain-reliever, cannabis, they are less likely to use the more risky one, opioids.
This confirmed a 2014 study which found that states with medical cannabis dispensaries had a 25% lower rate of opioid overdose deaths.
It's important to note that the 2015 study confirmed that it was specifically dispensaries that reduced overdose deaths, and not just any form of medical cannabis access. "We find no impact of medical marijuana laws more broadly," concluded the 2015 study. "The mitigating effect of medical marijuana laws is specific to states that permit dispensaries."
A third study, published last year, found that in American states with medical cannabis access, "the use of prescription drugs for which marijuana could serve as a clinical alternative fell significantly." This means that when cannabis is available, fewer doctors prescribe opiates, and fewer patients use them.
The evidence from these three major American studies is clear. Cannabis dispensaries reduce opioid use, and can prevent up to a third of opioid overdoses in their communities. In the midst of a nationwide fentanyl crisis, cannabis dispensaries are saving lives every single day.
If we're going to have "evidence based" laws and policies in Canada, then we should recognize that Canada needs much more cannabis access, and we need it now. If Trudeau's Liberals are serious about the opioid crisis and saving lives, they should announce an immediate moratorium on dispensary raids.
Canadians can't wait as more years pass and the death toll continues to climb. We need action from Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party. The war on dispensaries must end today.
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