Stuck on Stupid: Cannabis Really Can Solve America’s Opioid Problem

Stuck on Stupid: Cannabis Really Can Solve America’s Opioid Problem

At a recent address to law enforcement officials about crime and drugs America’s new Attorney General  Jeff Sessions announced that he was “determined that this country will not go backwards” and then preceded to make some of the most assbackwards statements about medical marijuana possible.

“We need to say, as Nancy Reagan said, ‘Just say no.’ There’s no excuse for this, it’s not recreational. Lives are at stake, and we’re not going to worry about being fashionable.”

He said, according to the Washington Post.

As if holding up the Reagan Drug War legacy like it was a golden era is not already backwards enough, he then dismissed what has been one of medical marijuana’s most promising modern day uses: opioid addiction.

“I’ve heard people say we could solve our heroin problem with marijuana,”

he said.

“How stupid is that? Give me a break!”

Well, stupid is as stupid does as someone used to say, and that’s some stupid shit Sessions. But if we are talking about actual science there is nothing that has become more clear recently than cannabis’s amazing ability to help individuals get off of not just heroin but also prescription opioid painkiller addiction, which is actually a more serious problem.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), powerful painkillers like Vicodin and OxyContin are responsible for more overdose deaths than heroin and cocaine combined, but you are surely not going to hear Sessions and his new Drug War team going after them – even though that would be moving forwards instead of backwards.

Fortunately, for those of use that know anything about the miraculous benefits of cannabis, the future is looking pretty green despite Session’s claims that the mighty herb has been “hyped-up”.

First of all, cannabis is one of the most powerful painkillers in the world. According to a recent news release by the National Academy of Sciences, the treatment of chronic pain is one of the primary therapeutic uses of marijuana and it has been found to be effective for everything from mild lower back pain to severe multiple sclerosis-related muscle spasms.

This is of course why medical marijuana users actually have a lower rate of using opioids and getting addicted in the first place. As a 2016 study in the Journal of Pain found; “cannabis use was associated with 64 percent lower opioid use in patients with chronic pain,”, meaning people are self-medicating with pot in order to avoid using dangerous prescription painkillers. This alone should be reason to make it widely available.

When it comes to actual heroin addiction, which is at an “alarming” 20 year high, according to a recent UN report, medical marijuana is the best way to actually move forward, despite Session’s infantile doublespeak.

According to a February 2017 press release from Mount Sinai Hospital in New York; “cannabidiol (CBD), a cannabinoid in the marijuana plant devoid of rewarding properties, reduces the rewarding properties of opioid drugs and withdrawal symptoms.”

“Additionally, CBD directly reduces heroin-seeking behavior.”

The press release states, also adding that

“CBD’s strongest effects were on the reduction of the anxiety induced by heroin cues.”

CBD is of course an extremely abundant and medicinal compound that also happens to be non –psychoactive meaning that any Drug War argument against it falls flat on its face as there is simply no “high” behind it at all.

Moreover, a simple natural substance that not only reduces the withdrawal symptoms associated with heroin addiction but the cravings that make it so hard to break and doesn’t even alter your state of mind in the process only proves how far removed from reality Session’s statements really are. Cannabis is a miracle medicine that is here to help us with even our toughest problems, serious addiction included.

The only possible reason that the government would want to keep marijuana away from the public is because there is serious money involved (tens of billions of dollars annually) in the prescription opiate game, no matter how dangerous.

By pretending to protect patients by attacking a real medicine like cannabis, Sessions only reveals that he is just another corporate flunkie protecting the big business kingpens who control him and the rest of the White House at this point. But Mama Marijuana is coming for them too.

That multi-billion dollar prescription industry is facing off against a plant so powerful that you would have to be blind to not see how this is going to play out. Why would you take an expensive chemical drug for your pain that is both potentially dangerous and addictive when a completely safe and natural alternative is available?

Legal marijuana is now the fastest growing industry in the United States and that’s only going to increase velocity as more and more states pass laws for medical and recreational use. Check out the chart below from the Washington Post that shows that in states that have legalized cannabis for medicinal purposes, prescriptions for a wide class of pharmaceuticals have dropped significantly. The most dramatic drop being in, you guessed it, painkiller prescriptions where the average doctor is prescribing almost 2,000 less prescriptions for these synthetic opioids a year.

news/cannabis-america-opioid-epidemic

That’s punching big holes in the corporate bigwigs’ pockets.

It also explains why the largest adversaries to the legalization are the pharmaceutical companies themselves. In Arizona for example, the biggest campaign contributions to the anti prop 205 campaigns were from Insys Therapeutics, a pharmaceutical company that produces painkillers. While 205, which would have legalized medical marijuana, was defeated, the margin was very small and the masses are already rallying for the next brawl. Its only a matter of time.

In fact, the latest poll out of Quinnipiac University shows that over 90 percent of Americans now support the medical use of marijuana, the highest number ever.

Despite the posturing, America is not going back to the Reagan era of waging war against medical plants that are actually solving problems that big corporations have only made worse – like opioid addiction. Jeff Sessions can stay stuck on stupid for as long as he wants because the tide has turned and the only thing better than see an idea whose time has come blossom into fruition is seeing an idea that was bad to begin with get swept away with the flotsam and the jetsam.

DEA to Consider Rescheduling Cannabis in 2016

DEA to Consider Rescheduling Cannabis in 2016

In response to a letter from seven U.S. Senators including Elizabeth Warren, the DEA has indicated it will review its classification of marijuana as a Schedule I substance within the first half of 2016.

“DEA understands the widespread interest in the prompt resolution to these petitions and hopes to release its determination in the first half of 2016,”

DEA said in a 25-page response.

Warren’s original letter asks the DEA to acknowledge the mainstreaming of medical marijuana. “While the federal government has emphasized research on the potential harms associated with the use of marijuana, there is still very limited research on the potential health benefits of marijuana — despite the fact that millions of Americans are now eligible by state law to use the drug for medical purposes.”

DEA drug scheduling, under the Controlled Substances Act, classifies substances based on their medical uses and potential for abuse. Currently, marijuana is grouped with heroin as a Schedule I substance, a category that is reserved for drugs deemed the most dangerous, highly addictive and of no medicinal value. Comparatively, methamphetamine, cocaine and most prescription painkillers that are currently part the opioid epidemic fall into the Schedule II category, a classification which permits doctors to prescribe them and researchers to access them for studies.

dea rescheduleThe Reschedule 420 smoke-in demonstration in front of the White House on April 2, 2016 (Photo by John Kagia/Whaxy).

While experts and advocates agree that cannabis should be de-scheduled completely, rescheduling the plant as a Schedule II substance would allow for more collaborative medical research and fewer criminal penalties for possessing marijuana. Currently, medical marijuana research is done on a small scale in the United States or in other countries with favorable legislation.

In their response to lawmakers, the DEA mentions that between 2000-2015, it provided marijuana to researchers at a rate of about 9 per year. The bureaucratic complexity of doing legal cannabis research has led many universities and organizations to abandon it all together.

“That number is totally insufficient to meet public health needs and to answer the number of [research] questions that pop up yearly,”

said John Hudak of the Brookings Institute. “People just aren’t applying because of all the headaches involved.”

chuck rosenberg

While the DEA’s letter might be good news for marijuana advocates, acting DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg made clear last year that he has no intention of rescheduling marijuana, despite promising research, millions of people providing anecdotal evidence and legal medical marijuana programs in 23 states.

“If you want me to say that marijuana’s not dangerous, I’m not going to say that because I think it is. Do I think it’s as dangerous as heroin? Probably not. I’m not an expert,”

said Rosenberg. He later admitted that marijuana is not as harmful as heroin, a nod to the political agenda of drug scheduling. Similar proposals to reschedule cannabis made in 2000 and 2006 were also rejected by the DEA.

“Almost half the states in the country have medical cannabis laws and major groups like the American Nurses Association and the American College of Physicians are on board,” said Tom Angell of Marijuana Majority. He also suggested that the Obama Administration should use executive powers to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II substance before he leaves office.

Hundreds of peaceful protesters who agree with Angell gathered in front of the White House for one of the largest smoke-in demonstrations in history on Saturday April 2 (click here to see photos from the rally).

Feature photo credit: John Kagia

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