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Research and Real-World Data-Informed Approaches

Dr. Marion McNabb with Cannabis Center of Excellence

DJ Ritter with Cannabis Center of Excellence

Dr. Steven White with Charlton College of Business, UMass Dartmouth


The US opioid crisis continues to escalate and is exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Nov 2021 data, 1,613 confirmed and estimated opioid-related overdose deaths in Massachusetts, representing a 1.2% increase from 2020. The roll out of legal medical and personal cannabis use in the US may have a potential role in addressing the opioid epidemic. Specifically, integrating medical cannabis therapies has been noted as a potential harm reduction method.


The Cannabis Center of Excellence (CCOE) from 2018-2021 surveyed cannabis consumers, patients, veterans, to understand their medical cannabis use patterns and associated clinical outcomes. Most respondents are from Massachusetts, although all are national studies. CCOE studies are approved for ethical clearance by the UMass Dartmouth institutional review board.


The CCOE studies reported results from: Open Cannabis Consumers and Patients Study N=1,292 July 2018- Feb 2020; Veterans Health and Medical Cannabis Study N=565 March 2019- Jan 2020; COVID-19 and Cannabis Study N= 481, May 2020 – Aug 2021. In all studies, respondents reported reducing over the counter or prescription medication use with cannabis, see Table 1. Additionally, CCOE study respondents reported cannabis use improves the quality of life and reduces other harmful behaviors, see Table 2.


According to MA and US cannabis patients and personal use consumers, including veterans, many are actively using cannabis as an alternative to opiates and other medications. In Massachusetts, there is a need to educate patients and other healthcare providers on the state of the clinical and research evidence and more research conducted. 


  • Ding DD, Balkrishnan R, Diaby V. In our war against the opioid epidemic, could ‘weed’ be a winner? Expert Rev Pharmacoecon Outcomes Res. 2020 Oct;20(5):423-429. doi: 10.1080/14737167.2020.1807944. Epub 2020 Aug 31. PMID: 32799573.

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