It’s been 45 years since Richard Nixon declared a “war on drugs.” The Drug Policy Alliance reports, “He dramatically increased the size and presence of federal drug control agencies, and pushed through measures such as mandatory sentencing and no-knock warrants. Nixon temporarily placed marijuana in [Schedule I], the most restrictive category of drugs, pending review by a commission he appointed led by Republican Pennsylvania Governor Raymond Shafer.”
The Shafer Commission “unanimously recommended decriminalizing the possession and distribution of marijuana for personal use. Nixon ignored the report and rejected its recommendations.” And to this day cannabis (the scientific name of marijuana) remains a Schedule I controlled substance. This means that despite 42 states, DC & Guam allowing cannabis to be used for therapeutic usage or in “medical reasons in limited situations” the federal government claims that cannabis has “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”
Meanwhile cocaine, methamphetamine, oxycodone (OxyContin) & fentanyl are classified as Schedule II substances with some recognized medical use. In New Hampshire, the legislature recently approved a $1.5 million piece of legislation to expand the drug war, supposedly in the name of fighting the opioid crisis. However an amendment to have the bill use some of the funds “on treatment instead of handcuffs” was ruled non-germane. While some legislators are hoping to alleviate the crisis by seeking to allow people to get treated for their medical problem – and addiction IS a medical problem – other would be lawmakers are doubling down. Republican gubernatorial candidate and Manchester, NH mayor Ted Gatsas proposed: “If you are caught dealing fentanyl, the charge is attempted murder. If you can be linked to an overdose death the charge is murder without the possibility of parole.”
State Representative Amanda Bouldin posted on facebook, “Legislator got up just now to challenge why my amendment was declared non-germane. Asked Speaker, how is treatment unrelated to opioid crisis? Speaker replies that #GraniteHammer is not about the opioid crisis.” Bouldin added, “So the conclusion of the vote is that the legislature voted not to consider ‘non-germane’ amendments. BECAUSE FUNDING FOR TREATMENT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE OPIOID EPIDEMIC.”
What if there was another option that did not involve legislators voting to spend money on handcuffs or treatment? Could an expansion of therapeutic cannabis help solve the opioid crisis? Dr. Kevin Hill, an addiction psychiatrist, says there is “definitely a possibility” that therapeutic cannabis may reduce the need to use opioids for chronic pain. A recent University of Michigan study showed therapeutic cannabis patients, seeking to control chronic pain, saw a 64 percent drop in use of opioids. Patients “also reported fewer side effects from their medications and a 45-percent improvement in quality of life since using cannabis to manage pain.” The UM researchers also “said population level research has shown a reduction in opioid use in states where medical cannabis is legal.”
Hopefully the doctors with the ability to write such prescriptions will also soon heed the advice of national health leaders and “cut back on prescribing drugs like Vicodin and OxyContin,” and instead suggest their patients look into using cannabis, which does not need to be smoked to be consumed. Those with the power to make laws, need to realize the real solution to the opiod crisis does not involve handcuffs, Granite Hammers or tax-payer dollars. The real solution to the opiod crisis is to allow people to have access to cannabis without fear of arrest. The real solution to the opiod crisis is to end the failed war on drugs!