The opioid settlement framework has the potential to revolutionize the role of cannabis in mainstream health care. As the opioid crisis continues to devastate communities across the United States, a $50 billion settlement has been approved, holding pharmaceutical and health insurance companies accountable for their involvement. However, this framework could have much broader implications, including the integration of cannabis into big-box pharmacies and its inclusion in conventional health care plans. With increasing evidence supporting the therapeutic value of medical cannabis and public opinion leaning towards legalization, this settlement could pave the way for a new revenue stream and improved accessibility to cannabis as a pain management tool. Furthermore, it could lead to regulatory changes, expanded research and development, and public education campaigns to promote a more informed and accepting environment for cannabis integration.
I. Cannabis and Opioid Crisis Correlation
The opioid crisis in the United States has had devastating effects on communities nationwide, leading to a $50 billion opioid settlement framework that holds pharmaceutical and health insurance companies accountable for their involvement in the epidemic. One positive outcome of this crisis is the growing recognition of the potential correlation between medical cannabis availability and a decrease in opioid-related deaths and overdoses. Research has shown that states that have legalized medical cannabis as an alternative pain relief option have seen positive outcomes in addressing opioid abuse. As a result, the opioid settlement framework provides an opportunity to consider cannabis as a potential tool for pain management in mainstream healthcare.
II. Regulatory Changes and Legalization
The opioid settlement framework is still in the process of being adjudicated and consists of three main categories: substantial multi-billion dollar reparations, rehabilitation coverage, and devising alternative diversion plans. These regulatory changes could also pave the way for further alterations in the cannabis industry.
Public opinion and support for cannabis legalization have been steadily increasing, with 68% of US adults favoring the legalization of marijuana. The opioid settlement framework could potentially encourage more states to legalize medical and/or recreational cannabis. This legal precedent may also support legislative advocacy for cannabis as a safer alternative to opioids for pain management.
Several states have already passed laws, such as the Compassionate Care Act, that allow for the legal use of cannabis for medical purposes. These laws provide legal protections and accessibility to individuals who suffer from specific medical conditions that can be alleviated by cannabis. Importantly, these laws typically protect employees participating in state-sanctioned cannabis programs from termination. It is unlikely that this aspect of the legislation will change.
III. Cannabis in Big Box Pharmacies
The financial implications of the opioid settlement framework have prompted pharmaceutical companies to explore diversifying their product lines, including entering the medical cannabis market and potentially becoming major suppliers. This transition is already underway, particularly evident in major pharmacy chains that have reported nearly $1 billion in retail sales from CBD products.
Once federal legalization occurs, these companies may choose to add medical cannabis items to their inventories, creating new revenue streams. This shift could greatly impact the distribution of cannabis and increase accessibility to the general public. However, consumers may also face challenges, such as high taxation rates in certain states, which can place a financial burden on cannabis consumers.
IV. Mainstream Health Plans to the Rescue
The opioid settlement framework has sparked discussions about incorporating cannabis into conventional health care plans. With growing evidence supporting the therapeutic benefits of medical cannabis, health insurance companies are beginning to include coverage for cannabis-based treatments targeting specific conditions with well-established efficacy. This integration has the potential to lower patients’ expenses, making medical cannabis a recognized and viable option for medical treatment.
V. Research and Development
The allocation of funds from the opioid settlement to combat addiction and support treatment centers may indirectly benefit cannabis research. With increased financial resources available, scientists and researchers can conduct more comprehensive studies on the medical applications, safety, and efficacy of cannabis. This research can provide a stronger basis for integrating cannabis into mainstream health care plans and reducing out-of-pocket expenses for consumers.
VI. Public Perceptions and Education
One of the major challenges in integrating cannabis into mainstream health care is addressing public skepticism and misinformation. Pharmaceutical companies, in light of the opioid settlement framework, may take the initiative to launch public education campaigns that inform the population about the medical benefits and risks of cannabis. This proactive effort can create a more informed and accepting environment for including cannabis in mainstream health plans and big pharma.
The $50 billion opioid settlement framework represents a significant step towards addressing the opioid crisis in the United States. Beyond its immediate impact, this settlement has the potential to shape the distribution of cannabis in pharmacy chains and its integration into conventional health care plans. As awareness of the therapeutic value of medical cannabis continues to grow, it is crucial to make decisions based on robust evidence to ensure its safe and effective integration into mainstream health care.
- U.S Justice Department: Global Resolution of Criminal and Civil Investigations with Opioid Manufacturer. US Department of Justice. News Release. October 21, 2020.
- Balu A, Mishra D, Marcu J, Balu G. Medical Cannabis Certification Is Associated With Decreased Opiate Use in Patients With Chronic Pain: A Retrospective Cohort Study in Delaware. Cureus. 2021 Dec 7;13(12):e20240. doi: 10.7759/cureus.20240. PMID: 35004055; PMCID: PMC8730800.
- Jones J. Marijuana Views Linked to Ideology, Religiosity, Age. Gallup. November 15, 2022.
- Wiley JL, Gourdet CK, Thomas BF. Cannabidiol: Science, Marketing, and Legal Perspectives. Research Triangle Park (NC): RTI Press; 2020 Apr.
- Dentons: Cannabis Client Alert Week of July 7th 2023: Federal Government Considers Additional Cannabis Reforms for Veterans. Dentons. July 7, 2023.
- Shulman H, Sewpersaud V, Thirlwell C. Evolving Global Perspectives of Pharmacists: Dispensing Medical Cannabis. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2022 Apr;7(2):126-134. doi: 10.1089/can.2020.0144. Epub 2021 Apr 16. PMID: 33998897; PMCID: PMC9070745.