As federal leaders continue to ignore overwhelming scientific evidence on cannabis and opioids, it is more important than ever that states like Utah take matters into their own hands. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has repeatedly blamed cannabis for the crisis of opioid addiction and overdose, despite mounting scientific evidence that the opposite is true.

A recent piece published in the The New York Times, provides a concise overview of the relevant research, which suggests that medical cannabis can be an “exit way” rather than a “gateway” to opioids. The author, a professor of clinical psychiatry and the director of the psychopharmacology clinic at the Weill Cornell Medical College, argues that cannabis not only provides a pain-relieving alternative to opioids, but also dampens the addictive potential of these drugs.

He writes, “If cannabis were actually a dangerous gateway drug, as the attorney general suggested, it would be very easy to see in the data. We would find that medical-marijuana laws increased opiate drug use and overdose deaths, when in fact just the opposite has happened.”

Next time you’re in a discussion with someone about medical cannabis, here are a few powerful facts to mention:

  • From 1999 to 2010, states with medical cannabis saw 25 percent fewer opioid-related deaths than states with no medical cannabis laws. This equates to 1,729 fewer deaths than expected. (source)

  • A study conducted in New Mexico found that chronic pain patients who had access to medical cannabis were 17 times more likely to stop using opioids than those who did not have access. (source)

  • Legalization of medical cannabis is associated with a 23 percent reduction in opioid-related hospitalizations. (source)

Some politicians in Washington D.C. and Salt Lake City are refusing to acknowledge the scientific evidence that medical cannabis has so many benefits. Now it’s up to us the people to change laws and save lives.