The Trump administration’s Justice Department has announced a new push to crack down on growers and sellers of marijuana nationwide, citing a desire to reduce violent crime. This is the follow-up of a request from Attorney General Jeff Sessions last month to be allowed to prosecute facilities that sell medical cannabis.
The real problem here is, I think, fueled by misunderstanding and prejudice. Marijuana has been regarded as an illegal and dangerous drug for many years, and it’s understandable that it takes time to break those preconceptions and accept that there is no difference between medical cannabis and any other drug prescribed by doctors to combat a specific medical complaint.
I recently had the opportunity to visit a medical cannabis dispensary in Nevada, where I was surprised and pleased at the amount of professional medical knowledge on display by the staff.
It didn’t feel like a drug dealer’s den; it didn’t even feel like a liquor store. It felt like a doctor’s office, and every product for sale was labeled with the results of safety tests and the precise breakdown of chemical compounds to better aid accurate treatment. And patients are invited to a staff consultation.
The big surprise? Many of the products for sale won’t even get you “high.” Pills, transdermal patches, and even suppositories exist to treat pain, glaucoma, nausea, insomnia, and a variety of other complaints via cannabis. It’s about as far from the traditional stereotype of potheads as you can imagine.
What’s odd about the opponents of medical cannabis is that the same people never complain about the pharmaceutical versions of other street drugs that are widely available to patients. Morphine is essentially medical heroin, but no one claims that morphine should be unavailable to people in severe pain.
Stimulants like Adderall, for example, are basically medical speed. But despite the dangers of these drugs when used improperly, there is general silence about their use, and certainly about their legality. If we can have medical amphetamines and opiates, why not cannabis?
You may argue that cannabis has no proven medical benefit, and that’s OK — personally, I don’t believe chiropractic has any medical benefit. But millions of people, including personal friends of mine, claim medical cannabis provides them tremendous relief from chronic pain — relief that I would never want to deny them.
Attorney General Sessions claims his concern is with violent crime. But if that were really the case, he should welcome the legalization of medical cannabis, as one of its most popular uses is as a substitute for opioid-based painkillers.
Overprescription of these powerful narcotics by doctors is responsible for a wave of addiction (referred to as an epidemic by many in the media), which in turn has led to increases in assault and shootings in affected areas. In short, when people addicted to opiates switch to the cheaper, easier-to-obtain heroin, many resort to violence when they have difficulty getting it.
Finally, President Trump himself has said that marijuana legalization should be an issue for the states to decide, and says he supports medical cannabis. While the attorney general enjoys a certain amount of independence from the president, it seems like there would be more productive areas on which to focus his efforts, more in line with the Trump agenda and less likely to deprive pain sufferers of the treatment they need.
Logan Albright is a researcher for Conservative Review and director of research for Free the People. You can follow him on Twitter @loganalbright73.