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Capital Times: Gary Storck: Legislators’ failure to OK medical cannabis exacerbating opiate overdoses

My very first letter to the editor about medical cannabis was published by Madison’s Capital Times on Sept. 30, 1997. Here is the latest, “Legislators’ failure to OK medical cannabis exacerbating opiate overdoses ,” published by the Cap Times, from Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016, with dozens and dozens published in the interim.

Dear Editor: The Legislature has passed another set of bills meant to address Wisconsin’s opiate addiction problem. But will they work any better than the last set? There is a step lawmakers could take that is scientifically proven and would immediately cut deaths from opiates by 25 percent.

A 2014 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found enactment of statewide medicinal marijuana laws is associated with a 24.8 percent lower state-level opioid overdose mortality rate. In 2015, the nonpartisan National Bureau of Economic Research found states that allow patients to access medical cannabis through dispensaries have reduced rates of opioid addiction and overdose deaths.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services reports that opioid pain relievers contributed to 45 percent of the 843 drug overdose deaths in 2013, while heroin contributed to 27 percent, representing a total 608 deaths in 2013. Had Wisconsin enacted medical cannabis legislation, there would have been 152 fewer deaths in 2013. Failure to act since has led to nearly 500 deaths since 2013, with more dying every day.

Twenty-three states and Washington, D.C., have enacted laws to legalize medical cannabis. If state lawmakers truly want to make a lasting impact on opiate abuse in Wisconsin, they need to follow suit.

Gary Storck

Madison

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