Until now, hair-triggered alternative fact-machine Donald Trump deserved an honesty award: Unlike with every president to come before him since Richard Nixon, his month-old administration had yet to tell a lie about marijuana.
In team Trump’s defense, the obvious lies launched over the last four weeks—nonexistent “massacres,” bogus crowd sizes, vaporous perpetrators of voter fraud—were far more fantastic than tired old drug war hysteria. But during his daily briefing with reporters last Thursday—the last briefing open to now-banned press outlets including the New York Times, CNN, BBC and Buzzfeed—Sean Spicer made up for lost time with the baseless and memorable suggestion of a link between marijuana and opiate abuse.
Clarifying marijuana-hating Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ plans for the states enjoying the bounty of legalization in violation of federal law, Spicer said medical marijuana was probably safe. Legal weed, not so much. For legalization, the Justice Department will likely opt for “greater enforcement” than Barack Obama’s mostly hands-off approach.
Bereft of other normal feelings, Donald Trump feels for sick people using medical weed, Spicer allowed. That said, “[t]here is a big difference between that and recreational marijuana.”
“And I think that when you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing that we should be doing is encouraging people,” Spicer said.
The notion that recreational cannabis encouraged the country’s ongoing prescription opiate and heroin problem, which began several years before the first state legalized marijuana, is unknown to science. It is in fact in direct contradiction with science, as outraged drug reform organizations and fact-based news outlets like Snopes and many of the banned organizations mentioned above were quick to point out.
America’s prescription pill problem began around the turn of the millennium, when doctors began writing millions and millions of prescriptions for opiate-based painkillers. By 2015, a long, long time after everybody had seen Requiem for a Dream, doctors were writing 300 million prescriptions for habit-forming opiates a year, a fourfold increase.
For context, about 22 million Americans used marijuana last month, with 2.5 million addicted to some form of opiate-based drug, according to the federal government, for which Sean Spicer works.
People in America, which Donald Trump wants to make great, gobble 80 percent of the world’s opiates, a pile of pills worth $24 billion. Last year, Americans and Canadians bought about $6.7 billion worth of legal marijuana, according to the predictably cheerfully robust estimates of the national cannabis market. America is awash in pills, not weed.
Addiction researchers believe that about 10 percent of marijuana users may eventually become addicted… to weed, not heroin, as the “vast majority” of marijuana users never turn on to anything harder. When the pills go away, many opiate addicts turn to heroin. Not to weed. If they did, the opiate crisis would likely get better.
Most Americans who seek opiate-based drugs do so for pain. The doctors and scientists who still resist embracing medical marijuana blame a lack of science. Success stories about medical marijuana solving cancer, epilepsy and autism need more proof—but there’s ample proof weed helps sufferers of chronic pain, the National Academy of Science’s recent landmark review on medical marijuana found.
Most people who use opiates obtained their supply from someone else’s supply, swollen by overprescribing. Not by recreational weed.
“It is widely understood that overuse of prescription opioids, not marijuana use, is what’s driving the opiate crisis in the U.S.,” California NORML director Dale Gieringer said in a statement Friday.
Trump’s people prefer convenient understandings to honest ones.
Spicer may have just delivered an offhand remark sloppily attributable to the gateway theory, one of the junk sciences on which drug-warrior 101-level nonsense is based. We still don’t know what Sessions’s Justice Department thinks—or what Sessions or fellow drug warrior Tom Price, now our health secretary, plan to do.
We do know that Trump’s people are as careless with the truth on weed as they are everything else—which for once, is not so unprecedented.
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