It is hard to dissect just whether or not the Trump administration means what it says or says what it means from one minute to the next. White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s recent comments on recreational marijuana and the growing opioid crisis were no different, leaving the cannabis community rightfully nervous and those familiar with statistics scratching their head.
“I think that when you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing we should be doing is encouraging people,” remarked Spicer during a White House press briefing February 23rd.
Or maybe we should be encouraging people? As what Spicer either doesn’t know or failed to mention, recent studies show that the states that have legal access to cannabis have shown a decrease in opioid overdoses. A 2016 study conducted by John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health revealed that states with medical cannabis laws on the books have 25% fewer deaths from opioid overdose than states without safe, legal access to the plant. Patients and doctors alike have reported success in managing issues of chronic pain with cannabis, a condition that can often come with an opiate prescription.
Medical cannabis may not be a silver bullet for the aforementioned struggle with opioid addiction and overdose, but it being insinuated that it may be contributing to the epidemic is inaccurate at best. Spicer emphasized that the president sees a “big difference” between medicinal and recreational cannabis, and expects an increased level of involvement by the federal government—specifically the Department of Justice—with regard to these state laws.
There are currently seven states and Washington D.C. where adult-use, recreational cannabis has been legalized in the United States. 28 states have legalized the plant for medicinal purposes.
“The president understands the pain and suffering that many people go through who are facing, especially terminal diseases, and the comfort that some of these drugs, including medical marijuana, can bring to them,” stated Spicer. Despite the talk of opioid addiction, terminal disease and drugs in general, he made no mention of the pharmaceutical industry.
With drug war champions such as vice president Mike Pence and attorney general Jeff Sessions no doubt weighing in on this conversation from behind the scenes, the cannabis industry has every reason to be concerned. Thankfully, they have Trump’s alleged advocacy of state’s rights and a multi-billion dollar industry that’d be difficult to dissemble on their side—for now.