Study: Opiate prescriptions lower where medical marijuana legal

- April 20 -- 4/20 -- may be the unofficial holiday for official marijuana enthusiasts, but when it comes to medical benefits of this drug new research says the impact goes beyond the patient right to our pockets.

W. David Bradford and his daughter Ashley, both researchers at the University of Georgia, found that in government-funded insurance prescriptions for certain drugs, like opiates, dropped significantly in states that adopted a medical marijuana law. He said patients seem to respond to the availability of cannabis and then programs like Medicaid and Medicare save a lot of money.

Over the last two decades, 28 states and the District of Columbia have passed some form of law for marijuana's medical use. If all states had a law, the estimated total savings for fee-for-service Medicaid could have been $1 billion, according to the Bradfords' research.

But marijuana is still federally classified as a dangerous Schedule 1 drug -- on par with heroin. Dr. Christopher Yadron, executive director of the Betty Ford Clinic in New York, said that legal or not, medicinal or not, the drug can still be addictive. He said he is skeptical about studies on the cost savings of the use of medical marijuana without factoring in the negative costs.

While support for legalizing marijuana is at an all-time high, the debate blazes on.

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