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Sales Have Begun in Ohio and Now A Big Majority of Americans Has Access to Medical Marijuana

About 207 million out of 325 million Americans live where medical marijuana is legal.

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The “Ohio Tenth” is finally for sale in the Buckeye State.

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Voters in Ohio approved the sale of medical marijuana in the state in 2016. In January, the first four dispensaries opened. Under state law, the weed is sold in $50 packages that contain 2.93 grams. Growers have nicknamed it the Ohio Tenth because that’s one-tenth of an ounce.

State regulations also allow residents to buy 295 milligrams of THC in a patch, lotion or ointment, as well as 110 milligrams of THC in an oil, tincture, capsule or edible. A doctor must recommend marijuana as part of their treatment before they can legally purchase cannabis.

While the law change is a big deal for the 11.6 million people in Ohio -- and may help slow opioid use -- it’s also a big deal for the United States.

Related: More Seniors Are Using Marijuana and It May Decrease Their Opioid Use

A majority of Americans live where pot is legal.

Ohio is the seventh most populous state in the country. With sales beginning there while Florida is expanding its medical marijuana laws, about 63 percent of the country lives in a place where medical marijuana is legal (which is almost exactly the percentage of Americans that favors legalizing marijuana).

Keep in the mind, only five states had legal medical marijuana at the start of the century -- California (which was first), Oregon, Alaska, Washington and Maine. According to research from PolitiFact, about 207 million out of 325 million Americans live where medical marijuana is legal.

Of the largest states, California, Florida and Ohio are joined by New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Michigan as states where medical marijuana is legal. Only three of the 10 biggest U.S. states have not legalized cannabis for medical use: Texas, Georgia and North Carolina.

While laws differ, most allow medical marijuana to treat epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, nausea and loss of appetite (such as that experienced by those undergoing cancer treatments). Some states allow cannabis treatment for sleep issues or anxiety.

Related: Silver Lining: Mature Cannabis Consumers Are a Fast Growing Market

Marijuana and Opioids

Many hope medical marijuana slows down the opioid crisis that is growing in Ohio, which is among the top five states in the nation for opioid-related deaths. The thought is that some may choose to manage pain with cannabis rather than opioids.

Most state officials have not taken a stance on the issue. But Ohio State University law professor Douglas Berman told NBC, when asked if medical marijuana could help curb the opioid crisis in the state: “The simple answer is yes, I think it will help.”

Ohio could use it. According to numbers from the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), Ohio in 2016 had 3,613 opioid-related overdose deaths. That’s 32.9 deaths per 100,000 persons, more than double the national rate of 13.3 deaths per 100,000.

What’s more, that number has tripled in Ohio since 2010. The NIDA also notes that Ohio doctors prescribe opioids at a much higher rate than the national average (85.8 prescriptions per 100 persons, compared to 70 per 100 people nationally).

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