Opioid misuse and drug overdose deaths pose a major public health crisis in the United States. Studies suggest that altering drug supplies could help alleviate the crisis. This study aims to evaluate the county-level associations between the prevalence of cannabis stores (dispensaries) and opioid-related mortality rates.

This study based on panel regression methods included a total of 812 countries in the US that had allowed legal forms of cannabis dispensaries. The researchers used US mortality data and combined it with US census data to determine cannabis-related mortality rates using panel regression methods. The primary outcomes of the study were mortality rates associated with all opioid types combined.

The findings suggested that county-level dispensary count was negatively associated with the log-transformed, age-adjusted mortality rate for all opioid types. The findings further showed that an increase from one to two storefront dispensaries in a county resulted in an estimated 17% reduction in all opioid mortality rates. Besides, dispensary count had a strong negative association with deaths caused by synthetic opioids.

The research concluded that higher cannabis dispensary counts were associated with reduced opioid-related death rates,  especially deaths related to synthetic opioids. The findings suggest that the high prevalence of cannabis dispensaries was associated with a lower incidence of deaths.

Ref: https://www.bmj.com/content/372/bmj.m4957