Cannabis and The Opioid Crisis: Get the Real Facts

Cannabis and The Opioid Crisis: Get the Real Facts
Cannabis and The Opioid Crisis: Get the Real Facts

  • New study sends wrong message to cannabis investors about major industry opportunity
  • How cannabis could make big impact on $29.4 billion U.S. opioids market
  • As a substitute for opioids, cannabis offers real hope to estimated 1.7 million opioid addicts and abusers 


The Opioid Crisis is a growing social tragedy. It is the product of Big Pharma greed, specifically one obsessively greedy niche of Big Pharma, but that story has already been told.

In both the United States and Canada, real hope has emerged that the legalization of “medical marijuana” (cannabis) can have a dramatic impact on reducing the scope of this Crisis. The hope is backed by science.

Patients using medical marijuana to control chronic pain reported a 64 percent reduction in their use of more traditional prescription pain medications known as opioids, a University of Michigan study finds. [emphasis mine]

Then there is an article published earlier this week in the mainstream media.

Legalizing medical cannabis reduces opioid overdose deaths? Not so fast, new study says

The [previous] 2014 study found that between 1999 and 2010, states with medical cannabis laws had a nearly 25% lower average rate of opioid overdose deaths than states without such laws…But when they expanded the time frame through 2017…States with medical marijuana laws had average rates of opioid overdose deaths that were nearly 23% higher than those without these laws.

This isn’t real science. Not even close. It’s more mainstream media Fake News on cannabis, like we have been used to seeing during a century of cannabis Prohibition. Sometimes, the more things change the more they stay the same.

Why isn’t this science? There are two ways to answer that. One way starts by looking at the real science on cannabis.

Cannabis (including the marijuana sub-species) is non-toxic and non-addictive. It is completely safe. Cannabinoids, the active ingredients in the cannabis plant, are produced naturally in the human body. Known as “endocannabinoids”, they play an important role in regulating and maintaining human health.

Cannabis is so safe that it is not “contra-indicated” with respect to any known pharmaceutical. This means it is safe to use in conjunction with other drugs – including opiates.

Now let’s apply logic to the science. In any jurisdiction that legalizes medical cannabis, this can only impact opioid users in three possible ways.

a) They can refrain from cannabis use entirely
b) They can consume cannabis along with opioids
c) They can consume cannabis instead of some/all of their opioid use

Those are the only possibilities. With (a) there can be no possible impact at all. If (b) opioid abusers consume cannabis with opioids, while this is obviously not optimal it won’t kill anyone – as noted above.

If, however, opioid abusers reduce their use of opioids in favor of medical cannabis, it must reduce the number of opioid-related deaths.



Given that medical cannabis can only help in addressing the Opioid Crisis, how do we reconcile the real science with the sensationalistic pseudo-science published by the mainstream media? This requires a little more sophistication.

According to Chelsea Shover, the author of this pseudo-science, “the evidence is telling is now” that legalizing medical marijuana does not help to reduce opioid deaths.

Evidence? Ms. Shover uses that word very loosely. The only data she cites to support her irrational conclusion is a simple correlation. In recent years, states with legalized marijuana reported more opioid deaths, not less – countering the state data that had previously been reported (in 2014) showing a reduction in opioid deaths.

It sounds impressive. Correlations are like that. Connecting two pieces of data together, but with zero evidence of causation (i.e. zero proof). Let’s put this into perspective.

Here is an example of another “correlation” to which all economics students are exposed in their studies. There is a strong correlation between economic booms and sunspot activity.

The joke among economists (who aren’t a particularly witty bunch) is that we are still trying to determine whether economic booms cause sunspots, or whether sunspots cause economic booms.

In short, simple correlations tell us nothing because they prove nothing. Does Ms. Shover offer any real scientific evidence to support her illogical conclusion? No.

What we have then is an anomaly: data that is strongly counterintuitive to both the science and the logic here. Typically, when legitimate scientists encounter such anomalous data, they seek to dig deeper to explain the anomaly.

Chelsea Shover does the opposite. Rather than making any attempt to explain the anomalous data, she simply asserts (without any other proof) that we should accept this anomaly as the new “rule” here – and simply ignore the real science.

This is typical of the anti-cannabis pseudo-science that we have seen concerning cannabis in years past. Someone who already has a negative bias towards cannabis attempts to “prove” that cannabis is in some way bad for us – with simplistic drivel that cannot withstand serious analytical scrutiny.

Let’s do what Ms. Shover didn’t do: look for ways to explain this anomalous data.

The Capitalist Explanation

The Opioid Crisis is directly derived from Big Pharma greed. So looking to greed to explain the anomalous data reported on cannabis and opioids is a good place to start.

When medical marijuana is legalized in a U.S. state, it becomes an immediate threat to the Opioid Pushers. Cannabis is relatively inexpensive. It is infinitely safer than opioids. And it is a substitute for opioid use as either a medicine or recreational drug.

What does any good capitalist do when threatened by the loss of market share as a competing product is introduced? Slash prices. Undercut the competition and reclaim the market share.

What happens if the Opioid Pushers cut prices? Opioid addicts get more opioids per dollar. More opioids per dollar = more dead addicts. Anomaly explained.

That didn’t take long. Can we come up with other plausible ways to explain the irrational anomaly. Yes.

Related to “the capitalist explanation” is a parallel means by which the Opioid Pushers can consolidate market share in the face of competition from medical cannabis. They can leave prices unchanged but increase the potency of the opiates and opioid-laced drugs that they are pushing.

Increasing the potency of these killer-drugs gets addicts higher. It increases the addictive choke-hold of the opioids because of that increased potency – making it harder to move away from opioids to cannabis.

It also means more opioids per dollar. It would also lead to more dead addicts.

In five minutes (and with little difficulty) we can produce two plausible explanations that completely refute the anti-cannabis pseudo-science produced by the mainstream media. Others can undoubtedly produce other plausible explanations. All we have left is some anomalous (and alarming) data.

Can we learn anything from this? Yes.

Such data indicates that all levels of governments need to work even harder on law enforcement aimed at the Pushers. It also means that state and local health agencies need to be even more aggressive in seeking to substitute medical cannabis for opioids.

Medical cannabis can only help in alleviating the Opioid Crisis. When we see data emerging of increasing opioid deaths, this means we need more medical cannabis not less.

That is the real message here for investors.

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