Alarming cannabis claim from US Attorney General

One would hope that the US Attorney general was well informed, but apparently he is not.

At a Heritage Foundation event celebrating Ronald Reagan’s birthday this week, Jeff Sessions made a familiar argument: Easy access to marijuana is helping fuel the opioid epidemic. The Drug Enforcement Agency says that the vast majority of heroin addiction starts with prescription painkillers, he acknowledged, but “We think a lot of this is starting with marijuana and other drugs, too.”

Accordingly, last month, Sessions rescinded the Obama-era guidance to deprioritize prosecuting dispensaries in states that had legalized marijuana.

But a growing body of evidence suggests that legal access to medicamarijuana could in fact help reduce overdose deaths. The latest study, published by the RAND Corporation this week, found that states that allowed liberal access to marijuana through legally protected dispensaries saw reduced deaths from opioid overdoses. States that legalized the drug but didn’t allow dispensaries didn’t see the same pattern.

The most comprehensive review on the medical effects of marijuana to date, published last year by National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, examined more than 10,000 studies on marijuana and found evidence that marijuana and its synthetic cousins, cannabinoids, reduce chronic pain, as well as muscle spasms from multiple sclerosis and nausea from chemotherapy. The study also found evidence of downsides, like increasing the risk of bronchitis, schizophrenia, and anxiety.

A 2016 Journal of Pain study found that marijuana use was associated with a 64 percent reduction in opioid use among patients with chronic pain.

Vox: Jeff Sessions: marijuana helped cause the opioid epidemic. The research: no.

Speaking at the Heritage Foundation to the Reagan Alumni Association this week, Sessions argued that cutting prescriptions for opioid painkillers is crucial to combating the crisis — since some people started on painkillers before moving on to illicit opioids like heroin and fentanyl. But then he expanded his argument to include cannabis.

“The DEA said that a huge percentage of the heroin addiction starts with prescriptions. That may be an exaggerated number; they had it as high as 80 percent,” Sessions said. “We think a lot of this is starting with marijuana and other drugs too.”