During Denver’s State of the City Address, Mayor Michael Hancock addressed many of the biggest issues facing residents of the Mile High City — including his plan to respond to the city’s opioid epidemic. With Denver’s Office of the Medical Examiner reporting 110 overdose fatalities involving opioids in 2017 and data from Denver Needs Assessment on Opioid Use, Mayor Hancock’s response is not a moment too soon.
In the plan’s welcome letter, Mayor Hancock proudly states, “I present to you the Opioid Response Strategic Plan, the result of a collaborative effort among more than 100 government agencies and community organizations to address the opioid crisis in Denver. The work here represents a truly united effort by the Collective Impact Group, which was formed to combat opioid and other substance (mis)use in the city.”
While we appreciate Mayor Hancock’s leadership, his decision to not highlight the role that marijuana access can play as an alternative to opioids is concerning. Several observational studies – such as those here, here, and here – find that medical marijuana regulation is correlated with reductions in opioid-related use, drug spending, abuse, hospitalization, and mortality. Separate data evaluating prescription drug use trends among individual patients enrolled in state-licensed medical marijuana programs is consistent with this conclusion, finding that many chronic pain subjects reduce or eliminate their use of opioids following enrollment.
Mayor Hancock should not ignore the reality that access to marijuana can play a role in mitigating the opioid abuse crisis. Click below to urge Mayor Hancock to acknowledge the role that marijuana access can play in combating the prescription drug overdose epidemic, and promoting greater public health and safety.
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Author: Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Director