Despite research and data pointing in the opposite direction, U.S. Attorney General Jefferson Sessions told his state-level counterparts at the Association of Attorney Generals winter meeting that strides made in opiate addiction recovery using cannabis are a joke.
While we knew Sessions was no friend of the expansion of legal cannabis policies and industry, this is his first time attacking the medical-use aspects of cannabis, as opposed to painting with a wider brush against the alleged devil of legalization .
“I see a line in The Washington Post today that I remember from the ’80s,” Sessions said. “Marijuana is a cure for opiate abuse? Give me a break.”
The AG went on to halfheartedly acknowledge science could prove him wrong, but expressed doubt.
“This is the kind of argument that has been made out there. It’s just almost a desperate attempt to defend the harmlessness of marijuana or even its benefits,” he said. “I doubt that’s true. Maybe science will prove I’m wrong… my best view is that we don’t need to be legalizing marijuana.”
Unfortunately for Sessions, he really had his blinders on for this one.
Just a day before his statement, longtime medical cannabis researcher and University of California Berkeley Lecturer, Dr. Amanda Reiman, shredded similar arguments made by Kevin Sabet, president and CEO of the Kennedy family-backed anti-cannabis group Smart Approaches to Marijuana; ironically, a family long known for its battles with addiction is trying to obstruct access to treatment through their mouthpiece.
On High Sobriety — an addiction treatment resource committed to providing safe alternatives to the 75 percent of people who relapse after abstinence-based drug treatment (a multi-million dollar industry) — Reiman dug into Sabet.
“Traditional abstinence based treatment is not a long-term solution, and every relapse brings with it the chance for death. Death is irreversible,” Reiman said.
She added that her professional experience with addiction treatment has given her a first-row seat to the failures of abstinence-based programs.
“Those of us who work with people dependent on opiates see the hopelessness that comes from repeated failures to live up to the mantra of sobriety touted by the treatment centers they access,” she said. “The use of cannabis in the context of alcohol and opiate treatment, administered and overseen by a physician as an approved medication for symptoms of withdrawal is safer for the patient than methadone.”
Reiman also responded directly to AG Sessions’ dismissive comments on cannabis.
“Session’s alternative facts about the relationship between cannabis and opiates and their relative harms is not only misinformed but dangerous,” she said. “Sessions is fanning the flames of ‘Reefer Madness’ in a time when opiate overdose impacting families everyday.”
On the policy wonk side, the data driven facts immediately came out to counter the claims made by Sessions with Marijuana Majority Chairman Tom Angell leading the charge.
“This is ridiculous. Several studies have already shown that states with legal marijuana access see reduced opioid problems,” Angell said. “If the attorney general really cares about public health and safety, he’ll stop relying on ‘alternative facts’ to prop up an outdated ‘Reefer Madness’ view of marijuana.”
Drug Policy Alliance Government Relations Director Bill Piper echoed Angell’s thoughts.
“Evidence shows marijuana can reduce the use of opioids. There has been a reduction in opioid fatalities in medical marijuana states,” he said. “Also growing evidence that marijuana is an exit drug – helps people transition away from more problematic substances.”
TELL US, do you know someone using cannabis to treat narcotic addiction?