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A study found the unintended way legalized marijuana is likely preventing overdose deaths.

The reasons for supporting legalized pot are stacking higher, and higher, and higher, and higher...

A study found the unintended way legalized marijuana is likely preventing overdose deaths.

Weed is a real life-saver, amiright?

*wink*


GIF via "Pineapple Express."

No, but really. Weed might actually be saving lives!

To understand how, let's start by talking about prescription painkillers. Painkiller abuse has become a major problem in America. In 2011, the CDC reported that more people died from overdosing on painkillers than from cocaine and heroin combined.

In fact, America's prescription painkiller problem has become so dire the CDC considers it an epidemic.

And that's where legal weed comes in.

A vendor weighs buds for medical marijuana patients in Los Angeles. Photo by Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images.

New research has found that access to medical marijuana is likely saving lives by reducing overdose deaths caused by prescription painkillers.

Many people who use medical marijuana do so to alleviate chronic pain associated with various ailments. So a few smart folks set out to find the answer to the logical question: Is legal marijuana acting as an alternative for people who might otherwise use and abuse painkillers?

Those smart folks — better known as researchers from the University of California, Irvine, and the RAND Corporation — analyzed U.S. states that permit medical marijuana to see if they could find some answers.

And answers they did find: "Our findings suggest that providing broader access to medical marijuana may have the potential benefit of reducing abuse of highly addictive painkillers."

Medical marijuana patients attend a cannabis market in Los Angeles. Photo by Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images.

To reach their conclusion, the researchers looked at two different measures: 1. How many people had been admitted to addiction facilities for painkiller abuse, and 2. How many people died from painkiller overdoses.

States with medical marijuana legalization and pot dispensaries saw reductions in both admissions and deaths compared to states without medical marijuana. The accessibility of the weed played a role, too: Researchers didn't find decreases in states that allow medical marijuana but don't allow medical marijuana dispensaries.

This marks a tally in the "win" column for pot advocates...

...a tally that follows a whole lot of other tallies.

There's mounting evidence that the pros of pot outweigh the cons — for both medicinal and recreational purposes. This study showed how medical marijuana can save lives, but decriminalizing weed can also save us lots of money, too — money we could be spending on public schools and not on, say, our massive prison population.

Fortunately, the facts are encouraging more Americans to rethink the green stuff.

Gallup found in November 2014 that a slim majority of Americans support legalizing weed. To put that into perspective, that figure was at just 34% in 2003.

Public policy has reflected that shift. Throughout the past two decades, 23 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized medical marijuana, and four states — Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington — and Washington, D.C., now allow recreational weed.

Photo by Marc Piscotty/Getty Images.

America is getting behind a relatively safe drug that can save lives, boost vital tax dollars, and shrink our country's prison population? I'll smoke to that.

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