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Title: The American Opioid Epidemic: Is Medical Marijuana Really The Answer
Authors: Johnson, Thomas
Advisors: Noonan, Kelly
Department: Economics
Class Year: 2019
Abstract: Marijuana legalization is the most controversial public health issue facing legislators today. Public perception has increasingly supported the notion that marijuana is a safer substance than many legal drugs. Today, there exists a popular conversation promoting marijuana as a safe alternative to traditional opioid regimens in the treatment of pain. Although federal control over the substance has severely limited research into the safety and efficacy of the drug in this treatment application, small-scale medical research has demonstrated that marijuana may play a positive role in reducing opioid abuse. Recent empirical research has provided evidence of reduced opioid mortality in states with medical marijuana programs. These findings serve as the strongest evidence that patients are substituting opioids for marijuana in practice. However, as new research emerges, the relationship between the two substances has become increasingly unclear. This study aims to clarify the relationship between marijuana access and opioid mortality at the state level. Using difference-in-difference techniques, I confirm that states enacting marijuana policy prior to 2010 show significant reductions in opioid mortality. However, in testing key model assumptions, I show that confounding factors are overstating the results of this analysis. Further, I find a weak statistical association between marijuana access and opioid mortality when controlling for these factors. These findings suggest that future research is necessary to determine the place for marijuana in the ongoing opioid epidemic.
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Economics, 1927-2020

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