The cannabis plant’s medicinal value is virtually unmatched by any modern medicine – even scientific evidence has shown us that. And yet, for some reason, the DEA continues to ignore the mountains of evidence that medical marijuana can, and does, help millions of people across the United States.
Take, for example, the 100 million-some-odd people in the U.S. who suffer with debilitating chronic pain. Many of those people have had no choice but to turn to opioid pain relievers – you know, the drugs that are creating an addiction epidemic in our country and countless others. Those prescription painkillers are responsible for thousands of deaths each year. The American Society of Addiction Medicine estimates that 1.9 million people suffer with an addiction involving prescription painkillers, and over half a million people suffer with heroin addiction. The agency also notes that 4 out of 5 new heroin users started out on opioid painkillers. Estimates from the CDC have suggested that the majority of people who die from an opioid overdose had a prescription and were not using the drugs illegally.
Clearly, opioids are problematic in our society. And yet, for some reason, the immense and extreme detrimental side effects of opioids – like addiction, accidental overdose and death – are somehow not severe enough to outweigh their potential medicinal value.
This would possibly be an acceptable rationale, if marijuana – which has a low potential for addiction and has an extremely low risk of overdose – was not illegal because the powers that be maintain that any benefit received from cannabis is vastly overpowered by its “risk” potential. It simply doesn’t make any sense, and is totally contrary to what quite a bit of research has revealed.
This hypocrisy is underlined by recent research which revealed that cannabis is actually being used as an “exit drug” to help people get off street drugs like heroin, and even opioid painkillers. Zach Walsh, associate professor of the University of British Columbia, led the systematic review, which was published in the journal Clinical Psychology Review. Walsh commented, “Research suggests that people may be using cannabis as an exit drug to reduce the use of substances that are potentially more harmful, such as opioid pain medication.”
Other studies have shown that marijuana could actually be used to help cure opioid addiction by reducing the severity of withdrawal symptoms. One study from Columbia University, found that patients given THC during recovery experienced less severe symptoms and were more likely to continue with the treatment program. Another study from the University of Michigan, found that medical marijuana could also be used to replace the use of opioid drugs in pain management, and reduced the need for the prescription painkillers. In fact, 185 patients reported a 45 percent overall improvement in their quality of life after making the switch. Patients also reported a 64 percent reduction in use of their conventional opioid medications.
Essentially, science is indicating that in addition to helping people currently addicted to opioids, medical cannabis could actually help bring an end to the epidemic by providing a safe alternative to begin with.
There are veritable mountains of evidence, both scientific and anecdotal in nature, affirming that cannabis does indeed have medical value. And yet the DEA continues to make obtuse and uninformed statements about marijuana. In discussing cannabis prior to the agency’s most recent ruling, Russ Baer, a staff coordinator in the Office of Congressional and Public Affairs at the DEA, brazenly stated, “There’s no safe, effective medical use, and a high abuse potential, and it can’t be used in medical settings.”
These sentiments have no basis in reality. Baer himself acknowledged this when he noted that the plant has many medical uses. He claims that the government needs to sort out which of the compounds in marijuana are beneficial and which ones aren’t.
These bureaucrats are failing miserably at hiding the fact that Big Pharma intends to create medications based on the plant’s compounds. Why allow the whole plant to be used when you can divvy it up into parts and sell them all for money? They’ve already done it with a product called Dronabinol.
Almost 30 years ago, in 1988, the DEA’s own administrative law judge, Francis Young, recommended rescheduling cannabis. Young stated that “marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational analysis marijuana can be safely used within a supervised routine of medical care.” Unsurprisingly, the DEA denied the petition anyway.
Recent studies have also shown that in 2013 – when just 17 states had medical marijuana laws – medical marijuana contributed to just over $165 million in savings on prescription drugs. Since that time, medical marijuana use has expanded quite a bit. Imagine what those states are probably saving in care costs now. That clears things up a little bit, right?
The failure of the DEA to reschedule cannabis and acknowledge the medicinal value of this plant is an embarrassment. There is, at this point, one reason – and one reason only – that would explain why our government has failed to keep with current science – and that’s money.