COLUMBUS, Ohio — Gov. John Kasich said Thursday he doesn’t think Ohio’s new medical marijuana program will help mitigate the state’s opioid crisis, though recent studies indicate otherwise.
Kasich was asked at a news conference announcing new opioid prescription limits what role medical marijuana might play in addressing the growing number of opiate overdose deaths in Ohio. Kasich said telling kids not to do drugs but that marijuana is OK sends a mixed message.
“I know it’s not recreational marijuana, not recreational use, but I don’t see a role for it in this at all,” Kasich said.
A handful of studies in recent years have shown opioid overdoses and deaths have decreased in states that allow medical marijuana, which is far less addictive and lethal. Additional research has shown marijuana can alleviate pain. And Republicans and Democrats cited the opioid crisis as a reason to pass Ohio’s medical marijuana law last year.
The most recent study, released Tuesday, found hospitalization rates for painkiller addiction and abuse dropped 23 percent on average in states after they allowed medical marijuana use. Hospitalization rates for overdoses dropped 13 percent, according to the report published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
A Canadian study released in February found 63 percent of its sample of 250 patients eligible for the medical marijuana program there chose cannabis over prescription drugs, including opioids.
In each case, researchers said marijuana won’t solve the opioid epidemic but should be further studied.
Dr. Amol Soin, president of the Ohio State Medical Board and a pain management doctor, echoed that sentiment Thursday. Soin, who serves on the Ohio Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee, said there is not enough data to know whether medical marijuana will reduce opioid abuse here.
“I too am concerned about introducing another drug or destigmatizing a