The opioid epidemic in America has gotten so grim that some activists are pitching desperate solutions for the health crisis that claimed over 33,000 American lives in 2015 alone. “I feel like...they should be just dropping [cannabis] like relief agency rice, just dropping it over the hardest hit places,” Joe Schrank -- founder of the High Sobriety cannabis treatment center for opioid addiction -- recently told The Santa Fe New Mexican.
The idea of using marijuana to treat heroin addiction might seem absurd on its own, let alone the part about bombing states with pot. But it's actually backed by science. Several recent studies suggest marijuana could help people beat their addiction to opioids like heroin, fentanyl and a wide assortment of prescription painkillers. That's why the advisory board for New Mexico's Medical Cannabis Program recently recommended adding opioid-related disorders to the state's list of qualifying conditions for cannabis treatment.
However, New Mexico state Health Secretary Lynn Gallagher rejected that recommendation because nobody can say "with confidence that the use of cannabis for treatment of opioid dependence and its symptoms would be either safe or effective." And that is true. More research is needed to prove that cannabis can combat addiction. But dithering on the issue is an even more unsafe and ineffective position, according to Schrank. "Nobody is finding any range of recovery if they're dead," he said in a bleak rebuttal to opponents like Secretary Gallagher.
And while record numbers of Americans are dying every year due to opioids, nobody has ever died of a cannabis overdose -- ever. Even the DEA admits that. So letting people use cannabis to wean themselves off opioid addiction might not solve the problem, but as the annual death toll continues to rise, it's hard to imagine that medical marijuana could make things any worse.
But try telling that to the likes of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, two of the staunchest defenders of federal cannabis prohibition in America. President Donald Trump has tasked both of them with finding a solution to the opioid epidemic, but neither will even consider medical marijuana. In fact, Christie still insists that cannabis is poison while Sessions wants Congress to let him unleash the DEA on states that have legalized medical marijuana.
So while they're in charge of handling the epidemic, it's hard to imagine that the death toll will decrease -- unless, of course, activists do start carpet-bombing the country with cannabis.