Study Finds Lower Opioid Prescription Rates in Areas with Cannabis Dispensaries Nearby

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The results of a recent study found that closer proximity to cannabis dispensaries in a community leads to a lower rate of opioid prescription. The study entitled “Recreational cannabis dispensary access effects on prescription opioid use and mortality,” was made available online in June but will be published in Regional Science and Urban Economics in its September 2024 issue.

Steven J. Dundas of Oregon State University and Jason W. Beasley of Western Michigan University (a former student of Dundas’) used Oregon as an example to examine opioid prescriptions and mortality rates and how they changed based on the number of cannabis dispensaries nearby. The data they used stemmed from the Oregon Health Authority’s Public Health Division from January 2014-December 2017, which researchers explained “captures nearly two years of data pre- and post-RCL [recreational cannabis legalization] in Oregon.”

“This paper addresses the question of whether access to recreational cannabis is a relevant factor impacting demand for prescription opioids within a community,” researchers explained. “We combine neighborhood-scale opioid prescription data and recreational cannabis dispensary locations in the U.S. state of Oregon (OR) to investigate the impact of changes to cannabis access on opioid prescriptions.”

Dundas and Beasley reviewed Oregon-based communities that are within one mile of a licensed cannabis dispensary and found that prescription opioid rates were lower compared to areas without dispensaries close by. “Using distance bins to identify the non-linear effect of recreational dispensary access, our empirical results suggest mean prescription opioids per capita fell by 1.0–3.9% after recreational legalization in communities near cannabis dispensaries,” the study stated. “Our results show that the further individuals must travel to a recreational dispensary, the higher the rates of prescription opioids per capita.”

In contrast, communities that had a dispensary located within one to four miles had higher prescription opioid rates. As the radius …

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Author: Nicole Potter / High Times

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