What would happen if medical marijuana were legal nationwide? For starters, it would likely save lives, but it would also save a ton of money.
A study looking at prescriptions under Medicaid, which covers low-income patients of all ages, found that in states with medical marijuana laws, there were fewer Medicaid prescriptions for certain drugs.
Prescriptions for anti-nausea medications fell by 17 percent, antidepressant prescriptions fell by 13 percent, seizure and psychosis medication prescriptions both fell by 12 percent, and painkiller prescriptions fell by 11 percent.
“Patients and physicians in the community are reacting to the availability of medical marijuana as if it were medicine,” state the study authors Ashley and W. David Bradford from the University of Georgia.
This makes sense, especially in regard to the particular illnesses that can be treated both by pharmaceutical prescriptions and medical marijuana. Cancer patients suffering from the nausea of chemotherapy often turn to cannabis, while dozens of miracle stories have underscored just how helpful the non-psychotropic CBD oil has been for epilepsy patients suffering from seizures.
The reduction in painkiller prescriptions also fits well with data showing that there are fewer opioid overdose deaths in states that have medical marijuana programs.
While the data from the Bradfords’ study looks only at Medicare and Medicaid prescriptions, it would be logical to conclude that prescriptions under other health insurance providers would tell a similar story.
Moreover, according to the study, legalizing medical marijuana nationwide could spur a drop in prescription rates under Medicaid that would save taxpayers about $1.1 billion annually. That money would instead be in private hands, used to purchase medical marijuana, which because of its federally illegal status, is not covered by insurance.
In addition to money, more widespread medical marijuana laws could also help save lives, especially in the case of opioid overdoses that could be avoided by using medical marijuana instead, or by making cannabis available to those who could use it to curb life-threatening epileptic seizures.
The research also calls further into question marijuana’s status as a Schedule I drug, in the same category as heroin. For context, even cocaine is categorized less severely as a Schedule II substance. With 28 states having legalized medical marijuana, and more to come, federal prohibition of cannabis, or at the very least medical cannabis, is an increasingly untenable policy.