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Getty Images

More states are turning to medical marijuana as an alternative to the addictive prescription painkillers that have driven the public health crisis.

Why it matters: Recent studies found that states with legalized medical marijuana laws have seen lower opioid overdose death rates compared to states that ban it.

By the numbers: 64,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2016, about two-thirds of them from heroin, prescription opioids and synthetic opioids, according to the National Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • 115 Americans die on average every day from an opioid overdose.
The state of play

New York has expanded the use of medical marijuana as a substitute for an opioid prescription, a move that was first announced last month. This also means that people suffering with from severe pain, which doesn't meet the definition of chronic pain, now qualify to receive medical pot.

  • Overdose deaths involving opioids have increased in New York by roughly 180% from 2010 (over 1,000 deaths) to 2016 (over 3,000 deaths), according to the state's health department.
  • "Adding opioid replacement as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana offers providers another treatment option, which is a critical step in combatting the deadly opioid epidemic affecting people across the state," New York State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, said in a statement.

Pennsylvania added opioid addiction to the Medical Marijuana Program’s list of qualifying conditions in May. Gov. Tom Wolf also licensed eight universities in the state to conduct clinical research on medical marijuana.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner will soon make a final decision on whether to sign bipartisan legislation, which would allow patients to buy medical pot from licensed dispensaries based on their doctors’ orders, into law.

  • The measure, passed by state lawmakers last month, would cut bureaucratic red-tape by preventing patients from waiting up to four months for approval and being denied access because of past criminal convictions.
  • Take note: A similar measure got vetoed this week in Hawaii by Gov. David Ige.

The big picture: The growing push to swap opioids with medical marijuna comes amid growing tension between state laws permitting recreational and medical marijuana, and the law enforced by the federal government classifying pot as an illegal narcotic.

  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions has directed U.S. attorneys to more aggressively enforce the federal law, increasing confusion over how marijuana can be used in states where it’s legalized and making research about medical benefits more difficult.

Go deeper

Mike Allen, author of AM
50 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Biden's "overwhelming force" doctrine

President-elect Biden arrives to introduce his science team in Wilmington yesterday. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

President-elect Biden has ordered up a shock-and-awe campaign for his first days in office to signal, as dramatically as possible, the radical shift coming to America and global affairs, his advisers tell us. 

The plan, Part 1 ... Biden, as detailed in a "First Ten Days" memo from incoming chief of staff Ron Klain, plans to unleash executive orders, federal powers and speeches to shift to a stark, national plan for "100 million shots" in three months.

Off the Rails

Episode 2: Barbarians at the Oval

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 2: Trump stops buying what his professional staff are telling him, and increasingly turns to radical voices telling him what he wants to hear. Read episode 1.

President Trump plunked down in an armchair in the White House residence, still dressed from his golf game — navy fleece, black pants, white MAGA cap. It was Saturday, Nov. 7. The networks had just called the election for Joe Biden.

Fringe right plots new attacks out of sight

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Domestic extremists are using obscure and private corners of the internet to plot new attacks ahead of Inauguration Day. Their plans are also hidden in plain sight, buried in podcasts and online video platforms.

Why it matters: Because law enforcement was caught flat-footed during last week's Capitol siege, researchers and intelligence agencies are paying more attention to online threats that could turn into real-world violence.