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Yesterday we reported how Congress’ “opioid bill,” or Comprehensive Addiction & Recovery Act (CARA), was a hollow achievement, as it ignored medical cannabis alternatives and said nothing about the role of Big Pharma in the opioid abuse epidemic.

Among the information missing from the conversation was an eye-opening study done last year. A JAMA Internal Medicine study looked at ten years of data in all 50 states, concluding that states with medical cannabis laws had significantly lower rates of opioid overdose mortality.

There is no indication this important fact was heard when a federal “pain panel” advised Congress. The FDA, one of several agencies on the panel, had already been exposed as being stacked with members linked to drugmakers, including one caught up in an OxyContin scandal.

The JAMA study was presented in a recent Congressional panel on pain management. Despite the clear evidence of real-world results, prohibitionists rejected an amendment to study the “potential for marijuana to serve as an alternative to opioids for pain management.”

Now, a second study has confirmed the powerful effect that medical cannabis has on reducing opioid abuse.

In 17 states with medical cannabis laws in place by 2013, the researchers “found that the use of prescription drugs for which marijuana could serve as a clinical alternative fell significantly, once a medical marijuana law was implemented.”

Prescriptions fell dramatically for opioid painkillers, with 1,826 fewer doses being prescribed per year by the typical physician in a medical cannabis state. Amazingly, the trend also applied to prescriptions for depression, seizure, nausea and anxiety.

Chart by The Free Thought Project

Chart by The Free Thought Project -- Source: Bradford and Bradford, Health Affairs, July 2016

When the researchers looked at data for conditions where medical cannabis is not used for treatment, prescription rates remain unchanged after the implementation of medical cannabis laws.

If that weren’t enough to confirm the positive effects of legal cannabis, the study was limited to data from Medicare Part D which is for seniors. This is the most reluctant group to try medical cannabis cures, so the 65 and younger crowd is even more likely to see a decline in painkiller prescriptions.

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There was more good news in the new study carried out by a father-daughter pair, Ashley and W. David Bradford.

"National overall reductions in Medicare program and enrollee spending when states implemented medical marijuana laws were estimated to be $165.2 million per year in 2013."

This means that if all 50 states legalized medical cannabis, it could bring almost a half billion dollars in annual Medicare savings. Seems like a no-brainer, right?

There's no lack of evidence for the ability of cannabis to help treat chronic pain.

As we reported, a study published this month in The Journal of Pain found that medical cannabis eases neuropathic pain in patients with spinal cord injury. The results show great promise for cannabis as an alternative to the opioid pregabalin, which often must be discontinued due to side effects.

This study adds to a growing body of research pointing to medical cannabis use for treating chronic pain, leading to calls by researchers for a change of course.

“The evidence supporting the therapeutic use of cannabis is actually much stronger than the use of other drugs that are used to treat the same conditions and it also seems, in many cases, that cannabis has a more favourable side-effect profile,” said Dr. Kerr in an editorial. “Opioids are killing people right now. There is no association with cannabis and mortality, and yet North America is in the midst of, really, what is a public-health emergency associated to opioid overdose deaths.”

The news about medical cannabis is welcome to everyone but the pharmaceutical industry. Along with buying influence in the FDA, Big Pharma actively works against medical cannabis legalization.

If people start using a plant that can be grown at their home, or products purchased outside of Big Pharma’s control, this is a drastic threat to their immense profits.

Vice News described how “drug firms maintain quiet ties to the marijuana prohibition lobby” by offering up researchers who produce bogus reports on the supposed dangers of cannabis legalization.

Pharmaceutical companies, along with alcohol and beer companies, private prison corporations and police unions, spend millions battling state initiatives to legalize medical or recreational cannabis.

With such a clear indication that one of the most effective ways to tackle the opioid abuse epidemic is through the legalization of cannabis, the question is: How long can Big Pharma and federal cronies continue making millions suffer? How long can they continue denying basic freedom and the right to effective treatment?