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Could medical marijuana be the answer to the opioid crisis?

“We really don’t know what adverse effects it’s going to have,” said Robert Durm, a councilmember of the City of Niles.

“What states have found is that there’s a big shift away from the use of opioids,” said Thomas Clark, a Professor of Biology at IUSB.

“There’s always people that are going to abuse anything, any substance,” said Durm.

“One of the things that we see with opioid use is that for people who are trying to manage pain with it, it’s just not all that effective for chronic pain. Basically you have to continue taking it,” said Clark.

In an attempt to find an alternative to addictive painkillers, Indiana University South Bend Biology professor Thomas Clark is on board with a researched yet still very controversial choice.

“What states that have legalized medical marijuana have found is that there’s a big shift away from the use of opioids by such patients,” said Clark.

And he’s holding on to some of those numbers to help back this theory.

“There’s a shift to fewer drugs prescribed. And the biggest of these are pain medications. Over 1800 fewer doses per physician per year prescribed after medical marijuana is legalized,” said Clark.

He says the use of medical marijuana can alleviate some pain which has traditionally been managed with painkillers like Vicodin or Oxycontin.

“States that have legalized medical marijuana see an immediate drop in opioid fatalities of about 25% and this continues to increase over time so that 6 years later it’s down to a third fewer overdose deaths than what they saw before,” said Clark.

But medical marijuana has been a topic of debate from the very beginning. Michigan saw the legalization of medical marijuana back in November 2008 and it’s been a bumpy ride since with legislators and citizens asking for more clarification on the details of that law. City of Niles Councilman Bob Durm has his doubts.

“You know its… it’s a controversial subject. I’m more cautious in how we proceed in dealing with medical marijuana,” said Durm.

And he’s done his research on the negative impacts the substance could bring along with it to a city like Niles which is currently debating if medical marijuana dispensaries have a place in town.

“I can foresee our code enforcement being taxed. Grow facilities will use a lot of electricity and a lot of water and we own and operate our own utilizes. I’m for medical marijuana as long as it’s governed properly in the city,” said Durm.

Governed accordingly and used effectively. Durm says if there’s proof that could happen, he’d offer firm support if it could possibly curb the current opioid epidemic.

“With medical marijuana, I’m sure there would be a large faction that might abuse it, but there’s certainly going to be a much larger percentage that are going to benefit from that,” said Durm.

Since medical marijuana still isn’t legal on this side of the state line, IUSB professor Tom Clark says he knows there’s a long way to go for states who still haven’t legalized it.

“I don’t know how uphill this battle is right now but we have both republican legislators and democratic legislators who are on board and some of them are highly committed to this cause,” said Clark.

A cause Clark says could potentially be the right fix for an addicted America.

“This would be a great benefit to a lot of people it would improve the quality of life from a wide variety of conditions,” said Clark.

I asked Professor Clark how you could get involved in the conversation he says there are local town hall meetings about medical marijuana as it relates to the opioid epidemic or he encourages you to make the call to your local legislators.


Click here to hear Professor Clark discuss medical marijuana with ABC57's Colleen Bormann on Facebook Live.

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