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Scientific American Takes Sessions to Task for Trying to Destroy MMJ Protections

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The longest continuously published magazine in the United States has something to say to Attorney General Jeff Sessions: Get with the program.

When Jeff Sessions’ letter to Congress urging it to help him roll back protections shielding medical marijuana was made public this week by Tom Angell of Mass Roots, Scientific American stepped up to the plate.

The 145-year-old authoritative science magazine called out Sessions on his absurd assertions that legal controls protecting MMJ jeopardize the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) ability to combat the country’s “historic drug epidemic” and control dangerous drug traffickers.

And yes, there is a drug crisis that’s killing 91 people in the U.S. each day.

“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,” wrote Scientific American’s Dina Fine Maron.

In the article, Maron points to scientific literature, oft-quoted in High Times, that  confirms 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 sufferers who used cannabis reported a 64 percent drop in opioid use, as well as far fewer negative side effects and a better quality of life than they experienced using opioids.

In a 2014 study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), 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.

While pointing out that weed can be habit-forming, at least psychologically, the risks are not in the same league as opioids, and it is virtually impossible to lethally overdose on marijuana.

Meanwhile, heroin-related overdose deaths have more than quadrupled since 2010.

From 2014 to 2015, heroin overdose death rates increased by 20.6 percent—causing nearly 13,000 deaths in 2015, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

NIDA also confirms that nearly half of young people who inject heroin abused prescription opioids first.

The science on the benefits and risks of MMJ, notes Scientific American, is far from settled, mostly because conclusive research remains so difficult to undertake as long as the DEA, overseen by Sessions’ DOJ, continues to list marijuana as a Schedule I drug.

The Rohrabacher–Farr Amendment that provides legal protections for state MMJ programs, which Sessions was urging Congress to overturn, expires at the end of September. It will need to be renewed in order to become law.

Scientific American quotes W. David Bradford, a health policy expert at the University of Georgia who studies medical marijuana policies.

Failing to renew the amendment, said Bradford, “would throw a lot of uncertainty into the [medical cannabis] industry and cause disruption for patients.”

Bradford also linked the fate of the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment to the opioid crisis: “Anything we can do to divert people away from initial opiate use will divert them away from the potential for misuse and death.”

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