Marijuana Reform Would Help Curb Virginia’s Opioid Crisis


Virginia, like many states, is battling an opioid crisis. There are many contributing factors to the crisis that is sweeping Virginia, but the over-prescribing of pharmaceutical painkillers is a big contributing factor. People get hurt and go into their doctor looking for relief, and that leads to a lifetime of battling addiction. Sadly, it’s an all too common story.

One thing that has been offered up in Virginia to battle the epidemic is reforming Virginia’s outdated marijuana laws. Possessing over a half ounce of marijuana is a felony in Virginia, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Reforming Virginia’s marijuana laws would allow people to make the safer choice, rather than being forced to use opioids. Unfortunately that plan doesn’t sit well with Nancy Hans. Per WSLS 10:

The coalition chair Nancy Hans is also the Prevention Council of Roanoke County’s Executive Director. She says Virginia still needs to take a wait and see approach when it comes to legalizing marijuana and see what comes out of states that have already legalized the drug.

“We have an opioid heroin crisis in the state across the country and to start to begin talking about legalizing marijuana just doesn’t really make sense when we’ve got something already, we’ve got to put our heads and hands around and start to change that direction,” said Hans. “Let’s take the time to see what’s happening in those legalized states and the impact and don’t rush into this.”

What Nancy Hans is failing to recognize is that reforming marijuana laws leads to decreased opioid use. Below are two studies that hammer home the point:

“The treatment of chronic pain with medicinal cannabis in this open-label, prospective cohort resulted in improved pain and functional outcomes, and a significant reduction in opioid use.” - Haroutounian S, Ratz Y, Ginosar Y, Furmanov K, Saifi F, Meidan R, Davidson E. (2016)

“Among study participants, medical cannabis use was associated with a 64% decrease in opioid use (n = 118), decreased number and side effects of medications, and an improved quality of life (45%). This study suggests that many CP patients are essentially substituting medical cannabis for opioids and other medications for CP treatment, and finding the benefit and side effect profile of cannabis to be greater than these other classes of medications.” - Boehnke KF, Litinas E, Clauw DJ. (2016)

If Ms. Hans really wanted to reduce Virginia’s dependence on opioids, she would support marijuana reform. She wouldn’t say that Virginia needs to ‘take time to see what’s happening’ in other states that have legalized. Colorado legalized marijuana four years ago and it has been a success in every measurable way. What Ms. Han is really doing is delaying because she wants to keep the status quo in place. That’s unacceptable. Patients are suffering in Virginia, people are being arrested for a healing plant, and people are being pushed towards much more harmful substances. Free the plant!

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