Further research needed on medical marijuana’s opiate addiction benefits

If there’s even a chance overdose deaths in Massachusetts could be reduced by 25 percent, it’s all more reason for state regulators to stop dithering and get the medical marijuana dispensaries licensed and operational.

Can medical marijuana save lives? Massachusetts has a public health emergency, Gov. Deval Patrick has declared: opiate addiction is on the rise, resulting in hundreds of overdose deaths. And it’s not just Massachusetts. Between 1999 and 2011, overdose deaths nationwide increased by 118 percent.

In response to this crisis, the state Legislature has appropriated millions for more addiction treatment beds, has ordered insurers to cover treatment, and has put Narcan, which can reverse opiate overdoses, into the hands of thousands of emergency responders.

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