The mythology behind the War on Drugs has been dealt another blow in the form of a study finding that medical cannabis, if legal nationwide, would prevent 23,500 to 47,500 premature deaths every year.

While the DEA continues to claim cannabis has “no accepted medical use,” medical science has actually been making leaps and bounds in understanding the plant’s medicinal properties and applying them. This is why 29 U.S. states have legalized some form of medical cannabis.

The range of conditions cannabis can treat—thanks to its ability to stimulate the body’s endocannabinoid system and reduce inflammation—is significant to the health of the population as a whole, as this study demonstrates.

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“Adverse effects of moderate Cannabis use on physical health are subtle and rarely fatal, while Cannabis use is associated with decreased rates of obesity, diabetes mellitus, mortality from traumatic brain injury, use of alcohol and prescription drugs, driving fatalities, and opioid overdose deaths…

Specifically:

“Marijuana use is estimated to reduce premature deaths from diabetes mellitus, cancer, and traumatic brain injury by 989 to 2,511 deaths for each 1% of the population using Cannabis.” This means “an estimated 23,500 to 47,500 deaths prevented annually if medical marijuana were legal nationwide.”

Cancer ranks among the top five leading causes of death, according to the CDC. Researchers say their analysis underestimates the real potential of nationwide medical cannabis, suggesting their estimation of preventable premature deaths would double if other causes such as “drunk driving, homicide, or fatal opioid overdose” were included.

We know from previous studies that opioid overdose deaths plummet in states with legal medical cannabis, and that cannabidiol (CBD) actually blocks the opioid reward in the brain—showing exactly how it treats addiction.

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The authors make no bones about the logical conclusion of their study:

Cannabis use prevents thousands of premature deaths each year, and Cannabis prohibition is revealed as a major cause of premature death in the U.S.

This adds to the numerous ways in which the war on drugs is really a war on people. Prohibition prevents access to medicine, fuels mass incarceration, steals from innocent people through civil asset forfeiture, props up the black market, and denies billions in economic opportunity.

As the opioid epidemic rages, premature deaths from opioids are sure to increase with continued federal prohibition. Congress goes out of its way to suppress cannabis from having any role in solving opioid addiction. Lawmakers stripped out all mention of medical cannabis in the Opioid Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, not even allowing a simple study of its efficacy.

Veterans returning from war zones with chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are continually denied medical cannabis by lawmakers and the Veterans Administration. In turn, those who fight overseas wars of aggression for politicians must become criminals to obtain the medicine they need where pharma meds fail.

Even small advances are always under the threat by drug war crusaders and Big Pharma shills. Just yesterday, the House blocked an amendment—in place since 2015—that prevents Dept. of Justice from cracking down on legal cannabis states. If the amendment fails in the House-Senate committee, rabid drug warrior Jeff Sessions will get the teeth he needs to wage war against legal weed states. Prohibitionist groups such as Smart Approaches to Marijuana are urging the feds to “systematically shut down” the cannabis industry.

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The willful ignorance required by prohibitionists grows more astounding by the day. Maybe knowing that cannabis prohibition causes upwards of 40,000 premature deaths a year will cause at least a few to consider the facts, which lead to only one rational conclusion.

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Justin Gardner is a peaceful free-thinker with a background in the biological sciences. He is interested in bringing rationality back into the national discourse, and independent journalism as a challenge to the status quo.