Experts examine health impacts of legalizing medical marijuana in Kansas

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As conversation continues in the statehouse, experts are working to understand the impacts of legalizing medical marijuana.

The Kansas Health Institute first conducted a study on the impacts of legalizing medical marijuana back in 2015, but as the conversation of legalizing pot for medical purposes continues to grow, they decided an updated study was necessary.

"The purpose of the study is to really try to understand what would happen in terms of the potential health impacts in the state if this legislation passes," Tatiana Lin, team leader for population health strategy at the Kansas Health Institute, said.

Forty-six states have some kind of legislation in place legalizing medical marijuana. Ten of those states also legalized recreational use for adults.

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Kansas is one of four states that does not allow any medical marijuana use.

Steve Corbett said evidence from the study supports medical marijuana is beneficial for several health conditions, including pain management in adults and relieving nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy.

The study also looked at possible pitfalls.

"We looked at the potential impacts on driving, potential impacts on opioid prescription and use, as well as accidental ingestion by children," Lin said.

Researchers found higher rates of accidental marijuana exposure to children.

"A lot of products that contain marijuana, or cannabis, may be in the form of cookies or candy, so they're attractive to children,” Lin said.

Results are mixed as to whether medical marijuana led to an increase in traffic accidents, and more study is needed to determine whether it decreased deaths from prescription opioid overdose.

"Moving forward, we're hoping that the recommendations that come out of this report are utilized by the legislature and policymakers in making informed decisions about how to develop this marijuana policy,” Corbett said.

You can find the full brief to the study, here. 

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