A state of emergency declaration has been recommended in response to the U.S. opioid addiction problem, announced by the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis. The nation’s struggles with prescription painkillers comprise a serious issue that deserves equally serious scrutiny. Yet, the use of marijuana for pain as an alternative to prescription opioids is noticeably absent from the commission’s reports and statements despite overwhelmingly positive studies and a pronounced public response. The fact that the committee is headed by controversial New Jersey governor Chris Christie, a loud and proud cannabis prohibitionist, does nothing to allay suspicions that the committee’s review is far from thorough or unbiased.
8,200 Voices Unheard
Public comments were solicited by the committee who acknowledged that they received over 8,000 responses. However, Tom Angell of the Marijuana Majority, reporting for MassRoots
, vouches that his organization, alongside NORML, contributed a collective 8,200 comments in favor of medical cannabis as a means of staving off addiction to opiates. In their announcement, the committee cited receipt of over 8,000 comments yet made no mention of medical marijuana for pain relief as a considerable method of combating the opioid crisis. Speaking to MassRoots, Executive Director of NORML Erik Altieri summarized, “If Chris Christie and his commission actively elect to ignore the positive impact marijuana law reform has when it comes to combating our nation’s opioid crisis, there is zero reason to believe they are letting science dictate the direction of their research.”
A 13% Decrease in Opiate-Related Overdoses
What makes the committee’s decision to ignore the benefits of medical cannabis even more frustrating is the overwhelming evidence pointing to the plant’s efficacy in reducing opioid addiction. When states began to legalize cannabis for medicinal purposes, prohibitionists predicted a dramatic rise in hospital visits. While there was little to no change in hospital visits due to smoking marijuana, a noticeable decrease in opiate-related overdoses was tracked. In the wake of medical cannabis legalization, opioid overdoses dropped an average of 13% as noted in this April 2017 report
Years of Data Support Cannabis as a Viable Foil to Prescription Opioids
But marijuana’s benefits in battling opioid addiction have been well documented for years. In 2014, research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association
showed that “states with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8% lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states without medical cannabis laws.” So how does this overwhelmingly helpful information find no mention in the committee report recommending a state of emergency declaration for the opioid crisis?
Businesses Rush to Capitalize on Marijuana for Pain Relief
The business world is wise to the undeniable science in the statistics. Pharmaceutical companies such as Insys Therapeutics, Axim Biotechnologies and Nemus Bioscience have drugs in various states of development that take direct inspiration from cannabis. Of course, it’s hard to beat natural marijuana for pain relief but that doesn’t stop Big Pharma from trying to create a federally legal synthetic cannabis substitute. The point remains that industry recognizes the efficacy of cannabis in treating opioid addiction. Yet, Christie and his committee give it not so much as a passing mention in their review.
If “the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis” want to prove they’re serious enough about opioid addiction to warrant a state of emergency declaration, the least they could do is mention the possibility of using marijuana for pain treatment as a substitute for opioids. The science is pretty clear. But with Christie at the helm, we’d best not hold our breath.