Although U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is seemingly on the prowl to convince federal lawmakers that castrating state regulated medical marijuana programs could be the answer to solving the drug epidemic in the United States, a recent report from Scientific American shows that Sessions plan to pull the plug on legal weed might actually worsen the situation.
Last month, Sessions fired off a letter to Congressional members, asking them not to renew federal medical marijuana protections (Rohrabacher-Farr amendment) this September. The Attorney General wrote: “It would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic…I respectfully request that you oppose the inclusion of such language in Department appropriations.”
However, while Sessions attempted to use his letter to paint a semi-apocalyptic image of legal weed being a contributing factor in the terminal thinning of the American population, he failed to mention that states with comprehensive medical marijuana programs in place are actually experiencing a decline in opioid-related incidents.
Scientific American, a trusted source for over 170 years for all things pertaining to science and technology, points to several reputable studies that have surfaced over the past few months showing as much as a 64 percent reduction in opioid-related incidents in states with medical marijuana laws on the books.
In Sessions’ letter, he tries to convince federal lawmakers that marijuana is a highly addictive substance with “significant health effects,” including “psychosis, lung infections, and IQ loss.”
Yet, Dina Fine Maron, associate editor for health and science at Scientific American, says, “the risks are not in the same league as opioids.”
“Unlike the case with opioids,” Fine wrote, “it is virtually impossible to lethally overdose on marijuana—because a user would have to consume massive quantities in a prohibitively short time. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) says such a fatal result is very unlikely.
“Meanwhile, heroin-related overdose deaths have more than quadrupled since 2010,” she continued. “The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that from 2014 to 2015 heroin overdose death rates increased by 20.6 percent—causing nearly 13,000 deaths in 2015.”
It is common knowledge, by now, that marijuana is still considered one of the most dangerous drugs in the world -- one with apparently no known medicinal value -- only because the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has rejected every opportunity to put the herb is a lower classification. It is a situation that has prevented the true therapeutic benefits from being realized through the luxury of extensive research.
Health experts told Scientific American that it “would throw a lot of uncertainty into the [medical cannabis] industry and cause disruption for patients,” if Congress decides to side with Sessions on this issue and fail to renew the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment for future budgets.
Furthermore, such a move could also inadvertently cause a surge in opioid-related deaths.
“Anything we can do to divert people away from initial opiate use will divert them away from the potential for misuse and death,” said W. David Bradford, an expert on health policy expert at the University of Georgia.