Amid an opioid epidemic raging in the United States, several suggestions have been floated to mitigate the crisis, including the stark suggestion of an Ohio city council member: "Let addicts die."

While councilman Dan Picard’s idea has been decried as a cry of frustration rather than a legitimate solution; several viable alternatives have also been proposed and implemented to scale down the epidemic.

Buffalo, New York, recently opened its first opioid crisis intervention court, with the primary objective of keeping the opioid users alive. Under the program being followed by the intervention court since May 1, users avail treatment within hours of arrest, instead of days. They appear before the judge everyday for a month, instead of a week, and abide by strict curfews. Albeit this model can be replicated in other afflicted states too, the scale of the opiod crisis has called for urgent and innovative proposals that target the root of the epidemic rather than providing just remedial measures.

READ: US Sees Dramatic Increase In Opioid-Related Hospital Care

More than 52,000 people in the United States died of drug overdoses in 2015, according to the data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly two-thirds of overdose deaths in 2015 involved an opioid, with about two million people addicted to Heroin and other opioids — highly effective painkillers that include oxycodone, hydrocodone and fentanyl —the CDC reported.

Some studies have suggested legalized medical marijuana can help divert people from initial opiate use. According to an article published by the Scientific American, many heroin users in the U.S. first become addicted to legally prescribed painkillers, and then turn to heroin after their pill supply dries up or becomes too expensive.

A 2016 survey published in the the Journal of Pain also found chronic pain sufferers, who used cannabis, reported a 64 percent drop in opioid use.

In a 2014 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the researchers found that annual opioid overdose deaths were about 25 percent lower on average in the states that allowed medical cannabis.

Furthermore, a study  published in July 2016 in Health Affairs explored what happened to Medicare (Part D) painkiller prescriptions after states green-lighted medical marijuana laws. It was found a typical physician in a state with medical cannabis prescribed 1,826 fewer painkiller doses for Medicare patients in a given year — "because seniors instead turned to medical pot." 

W. David Bradford, a health policy expert at the University of Georgia who studies medical marijuana policies, said: “Anything we can do to divert people away from initial opiate use will divert them away from the potential for misuse and death,” Scientific American repported.

READ: FDA To Remove Opioid Painkiller From Market

It was with this intention that the New Mexico State Senate passed HB 527, a  GOP-sponsored House bill, on March 17 with an aim to legalize the use of medical marijuana to treat opioid addiction. Republican House Minority Leader Nate Gentry said: "Medical cannabis has great potential as an opioid replacement drug and we want to move people away from being prescribed highly addictive opiates." However, Republican Governor Susana Martinez , vetoed the bill.