Speaking of studies showing opioid overdose and death rates are lower in States with medical marijuana, our new Attorney General Jeff Sessions said: “I’m astonished to hear people suggest that we can solve our heroin crisis—have you heard this?—by having more marijuana. How stupid is that?”
No one is suggesting more marijuana is a complete solution, but it is not stupid to suggest, as I have, that it can help. Medically assisted addiction treatment helps prove the point. MAT conventionally uses methadone or buprenorphine to reduce craving and withdrawal. Sometimes even heroin itself is used. By easing the pressure and stress of addicts in connection with affording and getting drugs, they gradually stabilize and can curb excessive or reckless use. Marijuana has been shown to work in a similar way. Pot can help to prevent or at least postpone and lessen the effects of opioid withdrawal. This eases the feeling of need for the drug and allows the addicted person to lengthen periods of abstention.
Politicians are skilled at grandstanding. As a senator Sessions practiced that skill for many years and it looks like that’s what he was doing here. But, he is a smart man and I doubt he thinks cracking down on marijuana would be other than a waste of taxpayer dollars. He probably doesn’t, it turns out, since he appears to have accepted the 2013 Cole memo, which instructs prosecutors in the Justice Department to only go after serious offenses such as dealing and providing drugs to kids. So far he has left that memo in place and just told his prosecutors to go after “the worst of the worst” along with violent crime. That does not sound like a policy change.
Many people in this country favor criminal-law bans, because they assume they work to lessen drug use, addiction and the burdens these impose on our health care system. It is frustrating to those of us who have studied the issue and know better. Even Kevin Sabet a co-founder of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, which opposes legalization said: “We need a balanced policy that doesn’t go too heavy on enforcement but makes it clear that the overall goal is to discourage drug use.”
I have no problem with going after the traffickers who make drugs available to the teens and preteens. That’s the age of vulnerability to addiction. But, a century of evidence proves beyond doubt that punishing use and small scale exchanges between adult users is not an effective way to curb it.
© All rights reserved to Dave Finch 4/3/2017
At my Reform Drug Policy Project I envision what I think is a really smart approach to all drugs.