Cannabis Policy Could Play a Vital Role in Addressing the U.S. Opioid Crisis

Rosalie Pacula, co-director of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center, will discuss what is known, and still unclear, about the role of cannabis policy in addressing the national opioid crisis in her keynote address on January 29, 2019, in Los Angeles at the 2019 North American Cannabis Summit. With more than 130 deaths in the United States per day, the opioid epidemic continues to impact cities of all sizes. Research shows that adoption of medical cannabis laws has been associated with reductions in rates of opioid mortality, related hospitalizations, and fills of prescription opioids.
Pacula is a senior economist at the RAND Corporation and a professor at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. She serves as director of RAND’s BING Center for Health Economics, co-director of RAND’s Drug Policy Research Center, and co-principal investigator of RAND’s Opioid Policy Tools and Information Center of Excellence. She also was the lead investigator of several National Institutes of Health studies examining the impact of cannabis liberalization policies (decriminalization, medicalization and legalization) on use and public health and their impact on the use of other substances (alcohol, prescription opioids, and heroin). She is currently leading NIH-funded research constructing a state-level cannabis policy index and examining the impact of cannabis availability in local markets on medical and non-medical use of cannabis and opioids.
The 2019 North American Cannabis Summit will delve even further into the intersection of cannabis and the opioid crisis through sessions such as:

  • Emerging Research on the Use of Cannabis in Harm Reduction, examining evidence for cannabis use as a harm reduction strategy to reduce or replace opioid use

  • States’ Responses to the Ongoing Opioid Crisis, focusing on a study on cannabis substitution for prescription opioids and other drugs and new state policies allowing opioid use disorder and opioid replacement as a qualifying medical condition

  • Cannabis/Cannabinoids and the North American Opioid Crisis, presenting international efforts to investigate the possible role of cannabis in mitigating the ongoing opioid crisis

  • Colorado, Cannabis, and the Opioid Epidemic, reviewing current literature on medical cannabis, especially as it relates to pain, and Colorado's experience in the face of the opioid epidemic

The 2019 North American Cannabis Summit is a multi-national event featuring hundreds of public health officials, government representatives, and regulatory, health, science, social justice, and equity professionals from across the United States, Canada, and Mexico discussing the most pressing and debated topics surrounding cannabis. The Summit’s more than 150 presenters include Andrew Freedman, Colorado’s first director of marijuana coordination; Lewis Koski, former director of the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division during the state’s legalization of marijuana; Shaleen Title, commissioner on the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission; Cat Packer, first executive director of the Department of Cannabis Regulation for the City of Los Angeles; and Manuel Ruiz De Ch├ívez, president of Mexico’s National Bioethics Commission.
For more information and a complete program listing, visit the 2019 Summit website at The summit will be held at the Westin Bonaventure.

Sponsors of the 2019 Summit are Advocates for Human Potential, Inc.; the Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program (TRDRP); the California Department of Public Health; the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction; and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Integrated Substance Abuse Programs.

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