Year of Publication



Martin School of Public Policy and Administration

Executive Summary

Currently there are no studies examining the impact of medical cannabis programs on controlled substance prescribing. The intent of this study is to conduct a preliminary investigation into whether cannabis substitution for prescription drugs results in lower rates of controlled substance use. The hypothesis is that controlled substance use (in this project, defined by controlled substance supply) will decline in states after the introduction of medical cannabis programs.

State and year–specific per capita retail distributions of the seven most commonly prescribed opioid drugs (fentanyl, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, meperidine, methadone, morphine, and oxycodone) were obtained from the Automation of Reports and Consolidated Orders System (ARCOS) of the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). All drugs were converted to morphine equivalents. Dummy variables were used for the presence or absence of a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) and/or a Medical Marijuana Program (MMP). A regression analysis for a fixed-effects model with one-way analysis was used to evaluate the impact of a state medical marijuana program on controlled substance distributions.

Throughout the analyses neither the MMP nor PDMP effect was shown to have a statistically significant impact on the total amount of grams of morphine equivalents distributed. Based upon these results, I conclude that the implementation of Medical Marijuana Programs does not cause a decline in prescription controlled substance utilization. Due to the limit of the control variables included within the study there needs to be further research on the effects, if any, that Medical Marijuana Programs have on the use of prescription controlled substances.