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Leilani Perez, Feature Editor

The opioid epidemic that has plagued millions of Americans and taken the lives of thousands has many wondering if more liberal drug policies — such as the legalization of recreational marijuana nationwide — would lead to saving thousands of lives.
A connection between recreational and illicit drugs has always been speculated; however, there is no explicit connection between the use of recreational marijuana and addiction to hard drugs like meth or heroin. In fact, drug addiction to opioids most often stems from prescribed medication to painkillers, not recreational use of other substances.
The misuse of opioids has led to disastrous effects. Last year, 28,000 people died due to opioid overdose.
Sadly, the cost doesn’t just exist in terms of the loss of life; anesthesiologist Evan Kharasch claims that the misuse of opioids has cost the U.S. $70 billion — a result of addiction plummeting into crime, rehabilitation, and loss of production.
Such a loss of life and disastrous effects to the economy call for more reasonable policy of drugs, which can largely only be achieved through a far less harmful option: recreational marijuana.
Soft drugs like marijuana pose a miniscule threat in comparison to drugs like heroin and cocaine. A Huffington Post article titled “The Exhaustive List of Everyone Who’s Died of a Marijuana Overdose” claims that no one has died from marijuana alone: “a user would have to ingest somewhere between 20,000 to 40,000 times the amount of THC [the active ingredient in cannabis] contained in a single joint.”
With it established that the risk of overdosing on marijuana is nearly impossible, one must recognize that marijuana is the most suitable option in leading to a more reasonable use of drugs.
The legalization of marijuana has in fact had direct correlation with a reduction in opioid related deaths; according to the Berkeley Journal of Criminal Law, “in states with medical marijuana access, overdose rates are 25 percent lower than in states with no legal access.” There is also a reported 23% decrease in opioid dependence and 15 percent fewer opioid treatment admissions.
Not only does the legalization of recreational marijuana allow for a decrease in opioid related death and overdoses, legalization also allows for economic growth. According to The Colorado Department of Revenue, after the introduction of legal sales in 2014, marijuana sales have since generated about six hundred million dollars.
Additionally, the legalization of recreational drugs and subsequent taxation of those sales provide for an opportunity for government to invest in drug rehabilitation programs that will combat addiction and cut off demand for illicit drugs in the hopes of solving the crisis once and for all.