Skip to Main Content

Gut Check looks at health claims made by studies, newsmakers, or conventional wisdom. We ask: Should you believe this?

The claim:

When legal medical marijuana dispensaries start operating in a state, deaths from opioid overdoses in that state drop.

Tell me more:

In the United States, 25 states have legalized medical marijuana, including 19 that let patients with a prescription buy pot from dispensaries. Proponents argue that expanding the availability of medical marijuana reduces opioid abuse and overdose deaths because it gives people an alternative for pain relief.


About 3 out of 5 opioid overdoses occur in people with legitimate prescriptions for pain pills. These are the people who might opt for medical marijuana instead.

Unlock this article by subscribing to STAT+ and enjoy your first 30 days free!

  • Use of legal pharmaceutical opioids (like Percocet, Fentanyl, Oxycodone, Percodan) are proven to be a direct GATEWAY to heroin use.

    No one has ever ever died from toxic overdose of cannabis. Within a few hours of consumption cannabis intoxication wears off without any lasting effects or hangover. By comparison to the legal alternatives cannabis is nontoxic and very safe.

    Prescription drugs are directly responsible for over 237,000 deaths yearly in the US plus over 5,000 traffic deaths due to pharmaceutical intoxicated drivers. 78 PEOPLE DIE PER DAY from overdose of opium-based pharmaceuticals. In the United States EVERY 9 MINUTES, 160 times every day, 58,400 time per year a child is admitted to a hospital emergency room for pharmaceutical drug poisoning and many of these children never go home again.

    Booze consumption is a direct GATEWAY to alcoholism, homelessness, street violence, domestic violence, traffic fatalities, teen pregnancies and death. Over 88,000 people die every year in our nation due to alcohol consumption plus 16,000 more in traffic fatalities directly caused by booze intoxicated drivers.

    Tobacco is highly addictive and kills over 390,000 Americans every year.

    Cannabis has never been proven by scientific study as a gateway drug and has never killed one single person in all medical history due to toxic overdose. The new stronger strains of cannabis are a massive Improvement. Less to carry less to consume for the same results. No matter how much cannabis is consumed (even an entire bag of edibles) it is never fatal. Cannabis has no significant statistical history of traffic problems let alone deaths. By comparison to booze, tobacco and pills cannabis is very safe and far less toxic.

    So, which is safer???? Legalize, regulate and TAX!

    • Thoughtful comment. Your facts about cannabis are off but often stated. The most important error is that the effects of cannabis are NOT shortlived. The high might be, I have no direct experience, but some of the other “bad” effects of cannabis last for years. You are probably right about the comparison to booze.

Comments are closed.