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The Drug Crisis in the U.S. Concerns Prescription Opioids, not Marijuana

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by Paul Fassa
Health Impact News

There is a new shift being observed with the federal government looking to increase cannabis cultivation for research purposes accompanied by an intention to curb opioid production, according to an article from Marijuana Moment published recently by Forbes magazine.

During the latter part of the Obama administration, there was some movement toward expanding sanctioned cannabis cultivation for research, which the DEA under Jeff Sessions Justice Department resisted until recently. 

Along with this potential increase of cannabis resources for research, the DEA has announced an intention to restrict opioid production and monitor opioid distribution more closely than it has been. Opioids include oxycontin, oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl, and morphine. 

All of these opioids are addictive, dangerous, and potentially lethal.

Ironically, marijuana has recently been used to effectively help opioid prescription drug addicts painlessly walk away from them permanently within weeks. (Source) [1]

U.S. Attorney General Sessions and DEA Acknowledge the Opioid Crisis 

Shortly after taking office as head of the Justice Department, Jeff Sessions began voicing his opposition to medical marijuana, declaring “heroine was only slightly worse than marijuana” and “good people don’t smoke marijuana,” even implying that marijuana was the gateway drug to opioids and heroin. (Source) [2]

Sessions then attempted to sway Congress with his opinions, but met a lot of opposition, since medical cannabis now has some kind of legal status in the majority of U.S. states, and most Americans are in favor of legalizing medical cannabis.

In the meantime, the death toll for opioid addictions continued to rise dramatically, except in states that allowed regulated medical cannabis and recreational marijuana. Opioid prescriptions have actually declined in those states.

In an August 2018 press release that refocuses the drug war onto opioids, DEA Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon stated:

We’ve lost too many lives to the opioid epidemic and families and communities suffer tragic consequences every day. This significant drop in prescriptions by doctors and DEA’s production quota adjustment will continue to reduce the amount of drugs available for illicit diversion and abuse while ensuring that patients will continue to have access to proper medicine.

Attorney General (AG) Jeff Sessions added: The opioid epidemic that we are facing today is the worst drug crisis in American history. [Emphasis added] President Trump has set the ambitious goal of reducing opioid prescription rates by one-third in three years. We embrace that goal and are resolutely committed to reaching it. (Source) [3]

The emphasized phrase by Sessions is a dramatic shift from his recent position of threatening to come down hard on states that legalized cannabis for medical or recreational use. His threats loudly echoed the Drug War theme declared by President Nixon during the 1970s, which was intended more as a front to dragnet [4] anti-war college students, hippies, and African American leaders who were protesting and resisting government control on several fronts during the 1960s and 70s. 

These groups were widely known to possess and use marijuana and other drugs. Going after them by criminalizing them with drug laws could eliminate their leaders and discourage their movements without criticisms for violating free speech and public gathering constitutional guarantees. (Source) [5]

President Nixon’s “Drug War” has focused largely on marijuana for several decades since its declaration during the early 1970s. Under President Ford, a University of Virginia study was contracted to try and prove that marijuana was a brain-killer. 

Inadvertently, the researchers discovered marijuana was shrinking lab rats’ brain tumors. Ford had the Virginia study papers quashed [6].  

See:

Does Marijuana Cause Brain Damage? [7]

This Administration Replies Belatedly to the Demand for More Cannabis Research

While the death rate from opioid addiction has been recognized as a national epidemic that needs to be legally restricted, not one death from cannabis consumption has ever been recorded. 

With the discoveries of cannabis’ medical virtues, using the whole plant with THC (the cannabinoid that induces the “high”) or using hybrid cannabis plants low on THC but high with cannabidiol (CBD), more researchers are seeking to create research projects that not only further legitimize cannabis as medicine, but also determine which strains are best suited for particular ailments and diseases.

But as long as the Federal Government has cannabis (marijuana) classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, it makes growing cannabis for research and procuring it for the same reason difficult and subject to DEA raids. Many universities with research facilities have economic ties with the Federal Government. 

Even research labs not tied to federal purse strings are faced with violating federal law for having relatively large possessions of the banned weed grown on the premises. 

The University of Mississippi’s agricultural department monopolized the source of federal legally sanctioned cannabis for research since 1968. Many have been critical of the limited amount, quality, and lack of strain diversity available from this one institution. 

For the most part, that research has been used to satisfy Drug War politicians’ need to demonize cannabis or marijuana. And it is a limited supply that cannot satisfy the desired access to cannabis for medical and scientific research purposes.

The DEA’s tendency toward the end of Obama’s administration was to create the policy that would expand and allow more facilities to grow cannabis for research. The DEA was willing to go along with supplying the demand from several institutions. But when Session’s took office as AG, which supervises the DEA, those applications lingered in limbo.

But more recently, a letter from bi-partisan Congressional members to Sessions demanded an update on the 26 new applications to nationally sanction cannabis cultivation for research purposes and requested specific reasons for why the applications were not yet approved. From the letter:

Research and medical communities should have access to research-grade materials to answer questions around marijuana’s efficacy and potential impacts, both positive and adverse. Finalizing the review of applications for marijuana manufacturing will assist in doing just that. (Source) [8]

Session’s responded in a Senate hearing saying that adding new facilities to compete with the University of Mississippi would be “healthy” and promised the DEA would be moving forward on the applications with the cannabis availability issue soon, though he is concerned about the cost of supervising 26 new sources.

Investments and Tax Revenues from Cannabis Commerce are a Driving Force Influencing the Federal Government’s Cannabis Turnaround

A DEA filing in the new Federal Register for 2019 may be published soon. It calls for increasing the legal amount of cannabis grown in the USA for research purposes by over five times the 2018 amount of around 1,000 pounds to over 5,400 pounds in 2019. (Source) [9]

This should probably lead to at least a good portion of the 26 new applicants to be approved. Israel, Canada, and other nations have legitimized cannabis research to determine medical applications. 

But here within the large union of states, we have a confusing situation where over half the 50 states and the District of Columbia (Washington, DC) have legitimized cannabis for medical uses with varied disease application allowances with a few allowing adult recreational use, all regulated and taxed for state revenues accordingly. 

The fact that Forbes and other financial publications are writing about investing in cannabis commerce on several levels indicates that the cannabis boom is going to continue to grow.

The financial report known as Money Morning encourages investing in USA and Canadian cannabis commerce with tips on strategical time for highest yields and which cannabis stocks look most investment-worthy with this article. [10]

It may surprise you to know that despite all the publicity surrounding Colorado and all the West Coast states, all five New England states have legalized cannabis for medical use. Massachusetts had given the green light for adult recreational use and Vermont seems to be following shortly. (Source) [11]

The following video illustrates the Wild West is not the only frontier for the burgeoning cannabis industry. New England is keeping stride with the West with its own bold progress in cannabis commerce.