“Simply put, it is erroneous to make the claim that people who use medical marijuana are at lower risk of overdose,” states the head of the nation’s leading anti-marijuana legalization organization, Kevin Sabet.
Sabet and his Project SAMUEL[*] are forced to make these kinds of statements for two reasons: the growing public awareness of the opiate overdose epidemic and the growing understanding that, for many people, marijuana is an effective substitute for, or complement to, opioid painkillers.
Americans are increasingly aware of the studies showing that states with access to medical cannabis show a great reduction in the harms from opioids, including fewer deaths from, overdoses from, addictions to, use of and prescriptions for opioids.
That awareness has even trickled up to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who remarked, “I see a line in the Washington Post today that I remember from the ‘80s. ‘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. I doubt that’s true. Maybe science will prove I’m wrong.”
It is proving Sessions wrong.
That’s why Sabet has to step in with the only tools at his disposal—fear, uncertainty, and doubt—to propose “that there is insufficient evidence to confirm that legalizing marijuana will reduce opioid use and overdose deaths.”
Remember that anything Kevin Sabet says about the issue of marijuana should always be followed by “and that’s why we need to keep raiding and arresting people who grow and sell cannabis and why we need to establish mandatory rehab and financial punishment for those who smoke marijuana.”
Sabet muddies the waters by throwing shade at advocates for medical marijuana.
“Over the years, claims have been made that the drug can ‘kill’ cancer cells,” writes Sabet with mandatory scare quotes, “cure alcoholism and – yes – even eliminate morning sickness.” (I added the links to research supporting those claims, he didn’t.)
“When it comes to addressing our nation’s opioid epidemic,” Sabet continues, “Americans deserve solutions driven by science and evidence, not ideology or anecdotal evidence.”
Increasingly, Americans know personally someone who HAS recovered from cancer, stopped problem drinking, eliminated morning sickness, staved off seizures, or even kicked addictive opioids thanks to cannabis medicine. Frustratingly for Sabet, the anecdotes of people who are still alive thanks to marijuana are outweighing all the “insufficient evidence” he can muster.
Sabet then drops in some quotes from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to instill that doubt about marijuana treating opiate issues, an organization from which the New York Times reported a spokeswoman as saying, “our focus is primarily on the negative consequences of marijuana use,” instead of “the potential beneficial medical effects of marijuana.”
The problem for Sabet is that people are increasingly wary of the government agencies like the DEA, NIDA and the FDA that tell them a non-toxic herb is unacceptably dangerous while approving thousands-of-percent increases in manufacturing quotas for killer opioids like OxyContin and deeming thousands-of-times-more-potent opioids like Fentanyl as safe under doctor’s supervision.
“With the tragic rise in the number of opioid-related overdoses in the U.S., it’s no coincidence we’re seeing heightened promotion by the marijuana industry touting legalization as an easy solution to this deadly crisis,” Sabet warns. “Is this another concerted effort by the marijuana industry to leverage an issue of real concern for Americans to advance their agenda to commercialize marijuana?”
Sabet plays his Big Marijuana boogeyman card so that you’re distracted from what the real monster, Big Pharma, wants—the restriction of medical marijuana cutting into its business model. Cracking down on the opioid epidemic is already cutting into prescription volumes and evidence shows medical marijuana cuts into it further, to the tune of an average 1,800 fewer pills per doctor per year.
But it’s hard to demonize a Big Marijuana that will pay taxes, create jobs and check IDs, when the current weed dealer doesn’t, especially as Big Pharma’s OxyContin-dealing Sackler Family rises to #16 on the Forbes Billionaire Families List.
Sabet will raise Cain if you say that he’s shilling for Big Pharma. That’s just another distraction from his actual gig, shilling for Big Rehab. Look at the connections of most of his board for Project SAM, and you’ll see a whole slew of rehab doctors and clinic owners whose business model depends on drug courts sentencing kids caught with marijuana to stints in rehab backed with the threat of jail if they fail a piss test. You’ll even find Sabet praised by guys like Robert DuPont, who’s made a mint from selling those piss tests.
Legalizing marijuana will save lives in many ways, some from giving them a way off opiates. Whether there is sufficient evidence to prove that is irrelevant when trying to prove it isn’t going to kill anyone, but staying addicted to opiates might. He is right, though, in asserting that Americans deserve drug policy based on science, not ideology, but if he really believed that, he’d be out of a job.
[*] SAMUEL = SMART** Approaches to Marijuana Use Except Legalization.
** SMART = Stoners Must All Receive Treatment (h/t Chris Goldstein)