Pennsylvania is in the midst of an opioid crisis that continues to worsen. For too many patients, seeking relief from their pain has led to addiction – which, in some cases, has cost them their lives. The commonwealth has the eighth-highest rate of fatal opioid overdoses. More than 3,500 people died from opioid overdoses in 2015 – up 23 percent from 2014. Officials expect to see a significant uptick in this number for 2016, as well, once those numbers are in.

For the thousands of suffering patients and families who have bemoaned the lack of an effective, safe treatment for pain, a solution may be on the horizon. In 2017, Pennsylvania joined 29 other states across the nation that have legalized medical marijuana.

Cannabis has come a long way from being considered only a recreational substance. Countless studies have shown that cannabinoids – the chemical compounds found in cannabis – have an impact on pain and inflammation that is 20 times greater than aspirin, with very little risk. When cannabis is converted to a medical form such as pills or ointments, the THC – the main mind-altering chemical found in marijuana – is reduced. Many patients have found effective pain relief with medical marijuana, with minimal or no psychoactive effects.

Not only has medical marijuana been proven to relieve patients’ suffering, it has also helped to drastically reduce the number of fatal opioid overdoses. A study by the American Medical Association in 2014 found that states with medical marijuana laws saw a 25 percent drop in deaths from opioid overdoses compared with states without them. Additionally, the study found, individuals who used medical marijuana for legitimate medical conditions decreased their use of opioids by 50 percent.

Pennsylvanians have Gov. Wolf and their state legislators to thank for enacting one of

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