Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke in Richmond, Virginia, this morning to members of law enforcement and the media, telling them in his prepared remarks that he is “astonished to hear people suggest that we can solve our heroin crisis by legalizing marijuana – so people can trade one life-wrecking dependency for another that’s only slightly less awful.”
It’s refreshing to finally hear someone within the Department of Justice admit the obvious – marijuana is less harmful than heroin. It’s an improvement from Obama-era DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart’s 2012 testimony where her answer to the question “is marijuana less harmful than heroin” was “all illegal drugs are bad.”
But marijuana, a “life-wrecking dependency?” Compared to heroin, “only slightly less awful?” Dependency on heroin can kill a person; dependency on marijuana cannot. There is a huge gap on the life-wrecking scale that Sessions is missing, especially the two legal drugs, alcohol and tobacco, whose capacity to wreck and end lives approaches that of heroin.
Sessions is also clearly behind when it comes to the relationship between legal access to marijuana and reduction in opioid overdose deaths…
In states with a medical marijuana law, overdose deaths from opioids like morphine, oxycodone and heroin decreased by an average of 20 percent after one year, 25 percent by two years and up to 33 percent by years five and six compared to what would have been expected, according to results in JAMA Internal Medicine.
Reduction in opioid addiction and death…
…states with LMDs had lower opioid-overdose mortality rates and fewer admissions to treatment for opioid addiction than they would have had without the dispensaries. The estimated sizes of the reductions were 16 to 31 percent in mortality due to prescription opioid overdoses, and 28 to 35 percent in admissions for treatment of opioid addiction. This latter reduction was steeper, up to 53 percent, among patients who entered treatment independently of the criminal justice system.
Reduction in opioid use as measured by testing bodies of car crash victims (a somewhat random sample)…
Fewer people are using opioids in states that have legalized medical marijuana, according to a study published Thursday in the American Journal of Public Health that bolsters advocates’ claims that marijuana can substitute for more deadly drugs.
The study, which examined data from 1999 to 2013, found an association between a state legalizing medical marijuana and a reduction in testing positive for opioids after dying in a car accident, particularly among drivers ages 21 to 40.
And reduction in opioid prescriptions from doctors…
One of the most stunning drops in the report was in prescriptions of painkillers, which are currently in the spotlight due to a nationwide epidemic of opioid addiction. The researchers found that doctors in a state where marijuana is legal ended up prescribing an average of 1,826 fewer doses of painkillers per year.
The Attorney General is well aware of the devastation wrought by our opioid epidemic, noting that “every three weeks, we are losing as many American lives to drug overdoses as we lost in the 9/11 attacks.”
So, does Sessions place any of the blame for this epidemic on the pharmaceutical companies that have been aggressively developing and marketing opioids?
Does Sessions plan to reform policies of his department’s Office of Diversion Control, which has rubber-stamped ever-increasing opioid production quotas requested by the pharmaceutical companies, to the tune of 39-times increase from 1992 to 2015?
Nope. Sessions had no words for the pharmaceutical industry in his remarks, instead vowing that “we need to confront the heroin and opioid crisis in our nation – and dismantle the transnational cartels that bring drugs and violence into our neighborhoods.”
That view of the opiate crisis as one of foreign invasion rather than domestic poisoning fits in well with the Administration’s zeal for walling off the southern border. Says Sessions:
Illegal drugs are flooding across our southern border and into cities across our country, bringing violence, addiction, and misery. We have also seen an increase in the trafficking of new, low-cost heroin by Mexican drug cartels working with local street gangs. As the market for this heroin expands, gangs fight for territory and new customers and neighborhoods are caught in the crossfire.
Sessions insists he’ll use increased law enforcement to “stop both the transnational cartels” as well as “the thugs and gangs who use violence and extortion to move their product.” Too bad he hasn’t the same vigor to go after transnational corporations and their attractive sales reps who use gifts and promotions to move their product.