By Dina Fine Maron
Amid a drug crisis that kills 91 people in the U.S. each day, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has asked Congress to help roll back protections that have shielded medical marijuana dispensaries from federal prosecutors since 2014, according to a letter made public this week. Those legal controls—which bar Sessions’s Justice Department from funding crackdowns on the medical cannabis programs legalized by 29 states and Washington, D.C.—jeopardize the DoJ’s ability to combat the country’s “historic drug epidemic” and control dangerous drug traffickers, the attorney general wrote in the letter sent to lawmakers.
The catch, however, is that this epidemic is one of addiction and overdose deaths fueled by opioids—heroin, fentanyl and prescription painkillers—not marijuana. In fact, places where the U.S. has legalized medical marijuana have lower rates of opioid overdose deaths.
A review of the scientific literature indicates marijuana is far less addictive than prescription painkillers. A 2016 survey from University of Michigan researchers, published in the The Journal of Pain, found that chronic pain suffers who used cannabis reported a 64 percent drop in opioid use as well as fewer negative side effects and a better quality of life than they experienced under opioids. In a 2014 study reported in JAMA The Journal of the American Medical Association, the authors found that annual opioid overdose deaths were about 25 percent lower on average in states that allowed medical cannabis compared with those that did not.
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