Green Report: Marijuana, helping to solve Colorado’s opiate crisis

Dylan Simonson

Hydrocodone spilling out of its prescription bottle onto a blue cloth.
Hydrocodone (Photo courtesy of Rotellam1, Wikimedia)

A recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health, states that opiate related deaths have decreased in Colorado, since legalization. This is great news for cannabis fans across the nation.

The study states that opioid-related deaths have declined by over 6 percent since legalization took effect, back in 2014.


Opioids are a class of drug that act as a depressant, often used for pain relief in the medical community, and for escape recreationally, and are originally derived from the opium plant. Various opioids include oxycodone, hydrocodone, and heroin, to name a few. The former two of these drugs are a prescription pharmaceutical that you can get from your doctor and are classed by the DEA as having medical benefit. The latter however, is in the same class as marijuana.

Heroin is a schedule one drug. This means that heroin has no medical benefit and a high rate or risk of abuse. Marijuana is in this same classification, for some reason, alongside heroin, LSD, ecstasy, and other hard drugs.

These drugs, including the prescription painkillers, are much more dangerous and addictive than marijuana, and it can be seen in the US due to the current opioid crisis. People are dying everyday across the globe from opiates, but not one death from marijuana.

Colorado saw a rise in opioid related deaths every month till legalization took place in 2014. Since, they have been on the decline. These results are only in the short term, and researchers are looking forward to continuing to pursue the topic in the future.

Since this study has only been done in the short term, many Colorado officials are skeptical about the results of the study. They say that it is too early to jump to conclusions about these results, and we need to wait for a more long-term study to truly determine if we can combat the opioid crisis by legalizing marijuana. Additionally, the officials believe there are too many other factors to determine this reduction is due to one policy change, despite the fact the study did consider other factors.

Marijuana and reduced opiate trends have been studied several times in the past, but this was the first study to look at recreational marijuana, instead of medical.

The reason marijuana works and can reduce the rate at which people use opiates is because marijuana is often used for the pain relieving qualities that opiates are prescribed for. Marijuana is also much less addictive, and less harmful to an individual than opiates. This makes most people lean towards using marijuana over these painkillers.

Researchers are looking closely at these types of trends to see if they continue into the future, and hope to compare these findings to other states that have recently legalized recreational marijuana such as Oregon and Washington. Hopefully, within time, these studies can help set a national trend of legalization, and maybe get marijuana legalized on a federal level.

Collegian Blogger Dylan Simonson can be reached at or on Twitter @DylanSimonson0.