Opioid Commission To Trump: Declare Emergency, Ignore Science

Per The New York Times:

WASHINGTON — President Trump’s commission on the opioid crisis asked him Monday to declare a national emergency to deal with the epidemic.

The members of the bipartisan panel called the request their “first and most urgent recommendation.”

Mr. Trump created the commission in March, appointing Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey to lead it. The panel held its first public meeting last month and was supposed to issue an interim report shortly afterward but delayed doing so until now. A final report is due in October.

The initial recommendations are completely silent to the fact that medical marijuana access is associated with reduced rates of opioid use and abuse, opioid-related hospitalizations, opioid-related traffic fatalities, and opioid-related overdose deaths.

Chris Christie, sitting Governor of New Jersey until Jan. 17, 2018

Chris Christie, sitting Governor of New Jersey until Jan. 17, 2018

Over the last two months, over 8,000 voters contacted the Office of National Drug Control Policy commission, chaired by marijuana prohibitionist Chris Christie, with their personal stories and the relevant science to encourage the group to support medical marijuana as part of the approach to reduce the tragic effects of the opioid crisis. This effort was undertaken both by NORML and Marijuana Majority.

Governor Christie has zero percent credibility on drug policy, or any other policy, for that matter,” Erik Altieri, Executive Director of NORML said to Forbes of Christie at the time of his appointment to head the commission.

Nonetheless, this administration and Attorney General Jeff Sessions has continued to express skepticism with regard to the safety and efficacy of medical marijuana. Now, we now know that the President’s opioid commission is not interested in real solutions, but rather more empty rhetoric.

We have until October until the final report is to be issued.

Click here to send a message to the ONDCP commission to yet again tell them the facts and if you have one, please share your personal on how marijuana is a safer alternative to opioids. 

 

Study: Patients Report Substituting Cannabis For Opioids, Other Pain Medications

medical_mj_shelfPain patients report successfully substituting cannabis for opioids and other analgesics, according to data published online in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research.

Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley and Kent State University in Ohio assessed survey data from a cohort of 2,897 self-identified medical cannabis patients.

Among those who acknowledged having used opioid-based pain medication within the past six months, 97 percent agreed that they were able to decrease their opiate intake with cannabis. Moreover, 92 percent of respondents said that cannabis possessed fewer adverse side-effects than opioids. Eighty percent of respondents said that the use of medical cannabis alone provided greater symptom management than did their use of opioids.

Among those respondents who acknowledged having recently taken nonopioid-based pain medications, 96 percent said that having access to cannabis reduced their conventional drug intake. Ninety-two percent of these respondents opined that medical cannabis was more effective at treating their condition than traditional analgesics.

Authors concluded: “[M]ore people are looking at cannabis as a viable treatment for everyday ailments such as muscle soreness and inflammation. … [T]his study can conclude that medical cannabis patients report successfully using cannabis along with or as a substitute for opioid-based pain medication.”

The study’s conclusions are similar to those of several others, such as these herehereherehere, and here, finding reduced prescription drug use and spending by those with access to cannabis. Separate studies report an association between cannabis access and lower rates of opioid-related abuse, hospitalizations, traffic fatalities, and overdose deaths.

Full text of the study, “Cannabis as substitute for opioid-based pain medication: patient self-report,” appears online here.

First Meeting Of Trump’s Opioid Commission: Will It Be Effective?

Marijuana medicineToday, the Office of National Drug Control Policy convened its first meeting of President Trump’s “Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis.”

The Commission is tasked with making recommendations for improving the Federal response to opioid misuse and abuse.

Best evidence informs us that medical marijuana access is associated with reduced levels of opioid-related abuse, hospitalization, and mortality. Nonetheless, this administration continues to express skepticism with regard to the safety and efficacy of medical marijuana.

Today in The Hill newspaper, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano writes:

With opioid overdose deaths having risen four-fold since 1999, it is imperative that lawmakers and public health experts approach this issue with an open mind and remain willing to entertain all potential alternatives.

For many patients, cannabis provides a safe and effective substitute for the use of opioids and other potentially harmful substances. Committee members should set their political ideologies aside and give strong consideration to this rapidly growing body of scientific evidence.

You can read the full piece in The Hill by clicking here.

It is crucial that our government hear from us. Click here to send a message to the Commission urging them to include medical marijuana as part of any national response to the opioid crisis.

Chris Christie Has Zero Credibility on Drug Policy

From Forbes:

Legalize marijuanaAccording to Erik Altieri, Executive Director of the decades-old drug reform nonprofit NORML, Christie has spent much of time as governor (and, as it happens, much of the opioid epidemic) fighting the rising tide of calls for cannabis reform in his state. Last week, as part of opioid-themed comments, Christie even called the ever more crucial and commonplace drive to bring regulated adult and medical cannabis use to New Jersey “total stupidity” and “baloney,” and described any tax revenues from the industry as “blood money.”

“We are in the midst of the public health crisis on opiates,” Christie said. “But people are saying pot’s OK. This is nothing more than crazy liberals who want to say everything’s OK.”

In response, NORML released an open letter to the governor days later, explaining in simple terms how scientific and social research have repeatedly shown that cannabis offers rather the opposite of “baloney” in the face of opioid addiction. Citing years of evidence-based conclusions, the letter pointed out, “It makes no sense from a public health perspective, a fiscal perspective, or a moral perspective to perpetuate the prosecution and stigmatization of those adults who choose to responsibly consume a substance that is safer than either alcohol or tobacco.” It continued:

“In truth, America’s real-world experiment with regulating marijuana has been a success. Thirty states, including New Jersey, now regulate the plant’s therapeutic use and eight states authorize its use and sale to all adults. These policy changes are not associated with increased marijuana use or access by adolescents or with adverse effects on traffic safety or in the workplace. Marijuana regulations are also associated with less opioid abuse and mortality . In jurisdictions where this retail market is taxed, revenue from marijuana sales has greatly exceeded initial expectations.”

Altieri explained by phone that the new tactic is one of many advocates have tried over the years in order to convince Christie and lawmakers like him to accept the science on cannabis, and to invest in further study rather than stalwart opposition. Rather than acknowledge evidence that cannabis is a cheap, relatively quite safe method of treating pain and other conditions, and even effective for helping addicts quit much harder drugs, however, Christie has stayed his anti-pot course throughout, according to Altieri.

“Governor Christie has 0% credibility on drug policy, or any other policy, for that matter,” Altieri said. “When it comes to cannabis’ relationship to opioids from real-world experience, not bluster and rhetoric, states that have medicinal and recreational cannabis laws on the books see lower rates of overdose, lower rates of use, and lower rates of opioids being prescribed to patients.”

“This cannot be disputed,” Altieri added. “This is happening on the ground in many states, and he should know this better than others, having seen data on his own state, despite his protestations and attempt to block it.”

But at this point, Altieri said, whether such outreach finally touches Christie’s heart and brain, unlikely as it may be, is no longer of import to the state of New Jersey.

“In consistent polling, 60% of New Jersey residents support legalizing, regulating, and taxing cannabis, in line with the national average, and that’s three times the number of residents that support Governor Christie in his current position,” he said. “He further weakens his position by displaying his ignorance to basic and readily available science. We know that marijuana has a very low harm profile, that you can’t overdose on it, and that the side effects tend to be minor and temporary. Unlike opioids.”

Altieri continued, “It’s important to point out that Christie will be gone by the end of this year, and that so far, every single Democratic candidate for governor and a number of Republican candidates have come out in support of legalization. So it’s really a question of not if but when in New Jersey. And there’s nothing Chris Christie can do about it.”

 

READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE

LIVE IN NEW JESREY? CLICK HERE TO CONTACT GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE AND CORRECT THE RECORD.

Pharma Company Admits Opposing Marijuana Legalization to Protect Its Corporate Profits

C1_8734_r_xThose of us involved in the marijuana legalization movement have long assumed that those companies that produce and sell competing products — especially alcohol and tobacco — were working behind the scenes to try to maintain marijuana prohibition and to protect their duopoly for legal recreational drugs. These industries have lobbyists who regularly work with state and federal elected officials to keep legal marijuana off the market.

But we now see the pharmaceutical companies are also getting directly involved in political efforts to maintain marijuana prohibition, worried that legal marijuana will undermine their bottom line.

Pharmaceutical company joins the war on marijuana smokers.

Recently, we saw the first direct evidence that pharmaceutical companies are now working to defeat marijuana legalization efforts, acknowledging that their intent is to protect their market in synthetic opioid drugs.

Earlier this month, Insys Therapeutics Inc., an Arizona-based company, donated $500,000 to a group calling itself Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy, a newly formed organization established to try to defeat Proposition 205, the marijuana legalization voter initiative that will appear on the ballot this November in that state.

Insys currently markets just one product, Subsys, a sublingual fentanyl spray, a synthetic opioid far more potent than heroin (fentanyl is the drug found in Prince’s system following his death in April). “Insys Therapeutics made $62 million in net revenue on Subsys fentanyl sales in the first quarter of this year, representing 100 percent of the company’s earnings,” according to The Washington Post. “The CDC has implicated the drug in a ‘surge’ of overdose deaths in several states in recent years.”

Survey data compiled from medical marijuana patients show that subjects often reduce their use of prescription drug therapies — particularly opioids — when they have legal access to cannabis. According to a 2015 RAND Corp. study, opiate-related abuse and mortality is lower in jurisdictions that permit medical cannabis access, compared to those that outlaw the plant.

Insys has come under scrutiny of law enforcement. According to The Washington Post, a number of states are currently investigating Insys for illegally paying physicians to prescribe their drug in situations in which it was inappropriate. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a lawsuit against the company, claiming the company’s “desire for increased profits led it to disregard patients’ health and pushed addictive opioids for non-FDA approved purposes.”

The smoking gun.

When the company first made its half-million dollar contribution to the group opposing the Arizona legalization initiative — the largest single contribution to the group by a factor of four — the company claimed that its reason for opposing the voter initiative was “because it fails to protect the safety of Arizona’s citizens and particularly its children.”

But when the company filed a legally required disclosure statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission, it acknowledged to shareholders that it was making the donation because it feared a decline in the sales of its powerful opioid product and that of a second drug it is developing: Dranabinol, a synthetic cannabinoid. Synthetic cannibinoid is a blanket term for an artificial version of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC — the active compound in the marijuana plant — intended to alleviate chemotherapy-caused nausea and vomiting. The company concedes that the scientific literature has confirmed the benefits of natural marijuana over synthetic THC:

“Legalization of marijuana or non-synthetic cannabinoids in the United States could significantly limit the commercial success of any dronabinol product candidate. … If marijuana or non-synthetic cannabinoids were legalized in the United States, the market for dronabinol product sales would likely be significantly reduced, and our ability to generate revenue and our business prospects would be materially adversely affected.”

The Arizona Republic reported that the company, while publicly claiming to have kids’ best interests in mind, is clearly more concerned with ways to “protect its own bottom line.”

And the company has good reason for that fear. Recently published studies have found that states that provide for the legal use of medical marijuana had a 25 percent decline in opioid prescriptions. Another recent study from Columbia University found the implementation of medical marijuana programs is associated with a decrease in the prevalence of opioids detected among fatally injured drivers, based on a review of 69,000 fatalities in 18 states, according to data published in the American Journal of Public Health. Where legal marijuana is available, people use far fewer opioid drugs.

So we now have direct evidence that this pharmaceutical company in Arizona is spending large amounts of money to avoid having to compete with legal marijuana, in order to protect its market share for an addictive and dangerous synthetic opioid and a synthetic form of THC, at the expense of public health.

This is not the first instance of pharmaceutical companies pouring money into the “war on drugs.” In 2014, The Nation published an article revealing that the makers of Oxycontin and Vicodin were two of the largest contributors to The Partnership for Drug Free Kids and the Community Anti-Drug Coalition of America, two groups that oppose marijuana legalization and support continued prohibition.

Insys will certainly not be the last pharmaceutical company caught putting company profits ahead of concern for public health, but it is the first instance we have seen where a company was caught with its hands in the cookie jar, opposing a marijuana legalization initiative purely for reasons of corporate greed.

Tobacco and alcohol companies have long opposed legal marijuana.

It is understandable that recreational and pharmaceutical industries would not wish to compete with legal marijuana. By any measure, their products are far more dangerous and far more addictive.

Overdose Deaths.

For comparison purposes, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, excessive alcohol use results in approximately 88,000 deaths per year in this country. And, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tobacco smoking results in more than 480,000 deaths each year in this country, about 1,300 people each day.

A 2014 study by Johns Hopkins University found that states that legalized medical marijuana saw a 25 percent decline in overdose deaths from prescription drugs.

Marijuana has never caused an overdose death in the history of mankind. According to a recent report from the World Health Organization, one would have to smoke “between 238 and 1,113 joints a day – or at least 10 joints an hour, for 24 hours straight – before overdose would become a realistic concern” for marijuana.

Addictive potential.

While one can develop a dependence on marijuana smoking, the threat of dependence with marijuana is far less than with either alcohol or tobacco. Here is what the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine concluded in regard to cannabis’ potential dependence liability, in the context of other controlled substances:

“In summary, although few marijuana users develop dependence, some do. But they appear to be less likely to do so than users of other drugs (including alcohol and nicotine), and marijuana drug dependence appears to be less severe than dependence on other drugs.”

Here are their dependence ratings:

Tobacco: 32 percent (proportion of users who ever become dependent)
Heroin: 23 percent
Cocaine: 17 percent
Alcohol: 15 percent
Anxiolytics/sedatives: 9 percent
Marijuana/hashish: 9 percent

So if one is electing to use a recreational drug, marijuana is clearly the safest alternative. And if one is using an opioid drug for pain, they should experiment with marijuana as a substitute for the more dangerous and addictive opioids. For many, it is an effective and far less dangerous alternative.

_____________________________________________________________________

Keith Stroup is a Washington, D.C. public-interest attorney who founded NORML in 1970.

This column was first published in ATTN.com.

http://www.attn.com/stories/11586/pharmaceutical-company-admits-opposing-marijuana-legalization

 

Study: Opioid Prevalence Falls Following Medical Cannabis Legalization

oil_bottlesThe implementation of medical marijuana programs is associated with a decrease in the prevalence of opioids detected among fatally injured drivers, according to data published in the American Journal of Public Health.

Researchers at Columbia University in New York and the University of California at Davis performed a between-state comparison of opioid positivity rates in fatal car accidents in 18 states. Authors reported that drivers between the ages of 21 and 40 who resided in states that permitted medical marijuana use were approximately half as likely to test positive for opioids as were similar drivers in jurisdictions that did not such programs in place.

They concluded, “Operational MMLs (medical marijuana laws) are associated with reductions in opioid positivity among 21- to 40-year-old fatally injured drivers and may reduce opioid use and overdose.”

Prior comparisons have determined that medical cannabis access is associated with lower rates of opioid use, abuse, and mortality. Most recently, a 2016 study published in the journal Health Affairs reported a significant decrease in the use of prescription medications following the implementation of medical marijuana programs.

An abstract of the study, “State medical marijuana laws and the prevalence of opioids detected among fatally injured drivers,” appears online here.

While Obama’s DoJ protects the children from medical marijuana, teens are dying from energy drinks

Statements of the US Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration regarding the massive increase in emergency room visits for energy drinks:

Trend data show a sharp increase in the number of emergency department (ED) visits involving energy drinks between 2005 (1,128 visits) and 2008 and 2009 (16,053 and 13,114 visits, respectively), representing about a tenfold increase between 2005 and 2009.

Although there are no recommended or “safe” levels that have been experimentally established for caffeine, most researchers and clinicians consider 100 to 200 mg of caffeine per day to be moderate intake for an adult. Pediatricians recommend that children and adolescents abstain from all stimulant-containing energy drinks.

In one study, bar patrons who consumed alcohol mixed with energy drinks were 3 times more likely to leave a bar highly intoxicated and were 4 times more likely to intend to drive while intoxicated than those who did not consume alcohol mixed with energy drinks.

Statements of US Attorney Melinda Haag, as to why the Justice Department was suddenly concerned with Berkeley Patients Group and other medical marijuana dispensaries:

(SF Weekly) ”When a dispensary comes to my attention that is close to a school, a park, a playground or children, that’s a line I’ve decided to draw.”

“There is a belief, backed by facts, that marijuana operations are often times the victims of criminal activity,” she added. “Armed robberies at dispensaries, armed robberies at grow operations, and people who are nearby are at risk [to wit: school children] as a result of that.”

Never mind that there haven’t been any such dangers at the dispensaries Haag is working to shut down.  Never mind that some of these dispensaries are in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District, where there are strip clubs, porn shops, massage parlors, taverns, liquor stores, and open-air heroin and crack markets are closer to the schools than any of the dispensaries.  My God, won’t you just think of the children?!?  We can’t let them get the wrong message that marijuana is somehow medical and not as harmful to them as we say!  We must clamp down medical weed!

Recreational speed, however, is openly sold and marketed to teens in every convenience store in America.  Take, for instance, Five Hour Extra-Strength Energy Shots, which contain twice the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of Niacin, a chemical that aids in the conversion of food to energy, but which Americans already get far too much of in their diet.  These drinks contain twenty times the RDA of Vitamin B6, a set of chemicals that aid in protein metabolism and cognitive development, but in a dose that’s half the upper intake levels (UL) of the vitamin above which health complications can occur.  These energy shots also contain 83 times the RDA of Vitamin B12, useful in metabolism and red blood cell development and not harmful at any dose; however, only about 10 mcg of the drink’s 500 mcg of B12 can be absorbed by the body anyway.

The real boost in the Energy Shots is the “energy blend” that contains 2,000 mg of other chemicals including Taurine and “caffeine comparable to 12 ounces of the leading premium coffee”.  That’s about 240 mg of caffeine, the same as a teen might get from a 44oz Super Big Gulp of Mountain Dew, but in a two ounce shot.  It’s odd to me that a Justice Department so concerned about the teens and how much more potent marijuana is these days isn’t raising a stink about energy shots that are six times more potent than coffee and 22 times more potent than Mountain Dew.  But now tragedy may force them to:

(Today) Fourteen-year-old Anais Fournier downed two 24-ounce energy drinks on one December day, while hanging out with her friends at the mall. The next day, the Maryland teenager went into cardiac arrest — and just six days later, she was dead.

The official cause of death, according to the teenager’s death certificate, was cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity.

The day before she went into cardiac arrest, Anais’s family says she drank two 24-ounce Monster energy drinks, unwittingly guzzling 480 miligrams of caffeine — that’s nearly five times the limit recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. To put it another way: By drinking just two large energy drinks, Anais drank as much caffeine as you’d find in about 14 cans of Coke.

The Justice Department might want to stick to persecuting medical marijuana businesses, because these energy drink businesses now have a lot of money and media savvy.  Plus, it helps that their product is perfectly legal.  Monster Energy Drink sells its product in regular 16 oz and “mega” 24oz sizes, yet indicates 8 oz as a “serving size”, as if the typical purchaser is going to share it with a friend or two or stash the half-drank can to go flat in the fridge for later.  Their “energy blend” is 2,500 mg of caffeine, other chemicals, and guarana, which can have some pretty severe side effects when overdosed.

One fear we hear echoed by the people who oppose marijuana legalization is that it will be marketed to kids.  Yet we rarely hear complaints about Monster’s obvious marketing of bands, extreme sports, models, and celebrities (ironically including Snoop Dogg) designed to appeal to teens.  Red Bull makes Monster look like upstarts with their popular cartoon “gives you wings” TV ads, sponsorship of air races and “flugtag”.  But when medical marijuana dispensaries try something as innocuous as sponsoring a canned food drive for the homeless, their donations are turned away.

Two More Drug War Deaths

An Atlanta-area man was killed in a drug raid over the weekend, and a coroner's report shows that a pregnant Georgia teenager died after trying to hide drugs during a traffic stop earlier this year.

Dwight Person and Megan Long become the 43rd and 44th persons to die during US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

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As Pill Abuse and Deaths Intensified, The DEA Boosted Painkiller Supply

An epidemic of Oxycodone abuse has struck America in the last decade. The number of emergency room visits stemming from non-medical abuse of the narcotic prescription painkiller drug rose by 256 percent between 2004 and 2009, according to the U.S. government’s Drug Abuse Warning Network.

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