Can legalizing marijuana fight the problem of opioid addiction and fatal overdoses? Two new studies in the debate suggest it may.

Pot can relieve chronic pain in adults, so advocates for liberalizing marijuana laws have proposed it as a lower-risk alternative to opioids.

But some research suggests marijuana may encourage opioid use, and so might make the epidemic worse. The new studies don't directly assess the effect of legalizing marijuana on opioid addiction and overdose deaths.

Instead, they find evidence that legalization may reduce the prescribing of opioids.

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Malcolm Ritter ~ Associated Press via FresnoBee.com

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