The opiate overdose crisis has reached epic proportions in the United States.

In 2015, the CDC reported over 33,000 people died from prescription and illicit opiates, like heroin, oxycodone and fentanyl. We consume 80 percent of the world’s opiate painkiller supply and more of us consume opiates than tobacco products.

In response to the epidemic, U.S. President and reincarnation of Benito Mussolini in Cheeto form, Donald Trump, has appointed a special Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis

Note the “drug addiction” part, because if you don’t think the Trump administration isn’t going to use the latest dangerous drug scare as an excuse to ratchet up federal interference in all drugs, including cannabis, you’ve forgotten American history.

Still, such a commission could be a good thing if it diligently and objectively reviews the science on cannabis and opioids.

Recent research shows that access to medical marijuana reduces opiate prescribing, opiate use, opiate addiction, opiate-related car crashes and opiate overdose death.

But that’s a mighty big “if.”

We’ve already heard from Attorney General and Slingblade Hobbit Jefferson Beauregard “JeffBo” Sessions on the science.

“I see a line in the Washington Post today that I remember from the ‘80s,” JeffBo said. “’Marijuana is a cure for opiate abuse.’ Give me a break. This is the kind of argument that’s been made out there to just—almost a desperate attempt to defend the harmlessness of marijuana or even its benefits.”

Reviewing the members of Trump’s new commission doesn’t provide much hope for enlightenment on the marijuana vs. opiates issue.

Like Sessions, who believes strongly that marijuana is a gateway drug to heroin and is “only slightly less awful,” the appointees to this commission also believe the gateway theory that even the DEA doesn’t promote anymore.

Let’s start with the appointed chairman, New Jersey Governor and every gym ad’s before picture, Christopher “Chris” Christie. He recently railed against state politicians fighting for legalization, calling them “dopes” and “crazy liberals” who want to “poison our kids.” POLITICO reported that he claimed, “teenage marijuana users are 10 times more likely to become heroin addicts by the age of 24.”

Next, we have OxyContin-addicted, pill-impaired-car-crashing-not-sobriety-tested-given-a-ride-home-by-cops, former Rhode Island congressman Patrick Kennedy. He told the Washington Post that, “Marijuana destroys the brain and expedites psychosis. It’s just overall a very dangerous drug. In terms of neurobiology, there’s no distinction between the quality and types of drugs that people get addicted to. That’s why they call it a gateway drug. Addiction is addiction is addiction.”

If Kennedy’s name sounds familiar beyond his famous family, it’s because he’s the co-founder, along with Kevin Sabet, of Project SAM, the nation’s leading anti-legalization organization.

In their most recent white paper, “Marijuana and the Opioid Epidemic: Separating Fact from Fiction,” they claim there’s “insufficient evidence” that marijuana access will reduce “opioid use and overdose deaths,” comparing the idea of using marijuana to treat opiate abuse to doctors who “once sought to treat alcoholism with heroin, and heroin addiction with cocaine.”

Project SAM also still proclaims that “99 percent of people who are addicted to other drugs STARTED with alcohol and marijuana. So, indeed, marijuana use makes addiction to other drugs more likely.”

Then there’s Massachusetts governor and former job-slashing-premium-hiking healthcare CEO Charlie Baker. He was a vocal opponent of marijuana legalization in the Bay State, claiming that legalization would “make it easier to introduce young people to drug use.”

Legalizing marijuana, Baker warned, “would put our children at risk and threaten to reverse our progress combating the growing opioid epidemic so this industry can rake in millions in profits.”

And what commission on opiates would be complete without former staffer from the Drug Czar’s office and Mrs. Garrett on The Facts of Life doppelgänger Bertha Madras. She believes “the more frequently marijuana is used… the more likely… to become addicted to other drugs” and that “lessons that we have learned from opioids are directly applicable or generalizable to marijuana.”

The only person that Trump appointed to this commission that I can find who doesn’t hold a batshit-crazy junk-science belief that marijuana leads to opiate abuse is North Carolina governor and former tobacco field-hand Roy Cooper.

However, Cooper may not have the most sophisticated grasp of the nature of opiate addiction, telling WRAL-TV upon his selection to the commission that “What we’ve got to do is get people to rid themselves of this habit that they have.”

Well, yeah, Governor.

If only there were some sort of non-toxic herbal alternative that patients routinely admit they’re substituting for the use of opioids and other prescriptions…

Previously in Radical Rant: Erasing Hate in Texas
Click here for all of Russ Belville’s columns

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