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In White House’s Quest to End Opioid Crisis, Where’s Cannabis?

August 8, 2017
President Donald Trump listens as West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, a Democrat, announces at a campaign-style rally at in Huntington, WV, that he is changing parties to be a Republican. (Susan Walsh/AP)
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump announced they would sit down with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price for a “major briefing on the Opioid [sic] crisis.” The meeting, held at the president’s private golf course in Bedminster, NJ, came in the wake of a report issued that morning from the National Center for Health Statistics showing that US drug overdose deaths continue to skyrocket.

The opioid problem is real—and growing. The federal government’s report found that overdose fatalities climbed to a record 19.9 per 100,000 people in the third quarter of 2016. More recent data aren’t yet available, but the New York Times projected in June that the number of overdose deaths in 2016 would surpass 60,000—making for the sharpest annual increase ever recorded. Overdose deaths now kill more people per year than guns, car crashes, or HIV ever have.

(New York Times)

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whom Trump tapped to head his Commission on Combatting Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, noted last month that “142 Americans are dying every day of a drug overdose.” About six in 10 of those are caused by opioids. A Washington Post analysis found that overdose death rates for people between the  ages of 25 and 44 have risen for nearly every racial and ethnic group across almost all US states.

“To say we have a crisis here is an understatement,” Christe said, describing current overdose fatalities as “the equivalent of the death toll on Sept. 11 every three weeks.” The commission urged the White House to address the problem as a public health issue rather than a criminal one.


Trump Commission Calls for ‘State of Emergency’ Over Opioids

Cannabis has been conspicuously absent from the White House’s discussion of the opioid crisis so far. That’s a bit of a surprise in light of its longtime—and disproven—stigma as a “gateway drug” and Jeff Sessions’ apparent thirst to crack down on state-legal medical and adult-use systems. But it’s even more surprising given the growing body of evidence that cannabis could help abate the opioid epidemic.

Preliminary studies show that cannabis can be an effective treatment for chronic pain. The mere legalization of medical marijuana is associated with fewer opioid prescriptions and decreases in both opioid-related hospitalizations and overdoses. Some states have considered adding opioid addiction as a qualifying condition for medical cannabis, although lawmakers have said there’s still not enough evidence to justify it.


The Biology of Cannabis vs. Opioids for Pain Relief

Trump’s Chris Christie-led panel could have urged further study on the issue. Instead, the commission was entirely silent on cannabis as a method of combatting opioid deaths, ignoring roughly 7,800 public comments that referenced the plant. Pointing to a study that found that legalizing marijuana correlated with a 23% drop in opioid-related hospitalizations or overdoses, MSNBC correspondent Jacob Soboroff asked a member of the commission, former US Rep. Patrick Kennedy, why that was.

“It doesn’t seem to be a logical or sensible solution,” Kennedy replied, calling legal cannabis “the Big Tobacco of our time” and arguing, “I just don’t think adding more gasoline to the fire by adding a new addictive substance.”

“All things are on the table for the president.”
Tom Price, Health and Human Services Secretary

Following Tuesday’s briefing with President Trump, Health and Human Services Secretary Price  was asked at a press conference whether pharmaceutical companies that manufacture opioids may in fact be the Big Tobacco of our time. “Whether that’s something that’s analogous to that, I don’t know,” he said.

For his part, Trump suggested that opioid addiction could be averted by making sure people don’t start using opioids in the first place. “If they don’t start, they won’t have a problem,” he said. That could be accomplished, added the president, “maybe by talking to youth and telling them ‘no good, really bad for you.'”

Kellyanne Conway, a counselor to the president who angered Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey by saying that individuals suffering from drug addiction “need a four-letter word called ‘will,’” was also at the press conference. She emphasized that the White House takes the opioid crisis seriously, calling it a “nonpartisan issue in search of bipartisan support and bipartisan solutions.”


Senators Urge Trump Administration to Consider Cannabis as Opioid Alternative

Price echoed that sentiment, claiming that officials are leaving no stone unturned. The administration is “identifying every single thing that could move us in a better direction,” he said. “All things are on the table for the president.”

All things, apparently, except one.

Ben Adlin's Bio Image

Ben Adlin

Ben Adlin is a Seattle-based writer and editor who specializes in cannabis politics and law. He was a news editor for Leafly from 2015-2019. Follow him on Twitter: @badlin

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  • Christopher Pratt

    As usual, stupidity and ignorance reign!

  • TweetyBird

    Number of people who die every day from opioid overdose: 142
    Number of people who have died from cannabis overdose in the entire history of the world: 0

    But hey, government morons, don’t let facts get in your way.

  • John Pack

    They all probably work for big pharma.

    • Austin

      Probably?? Politicians??? LITERALLY.

  • originalone

    All things considered, Afghanistan’s poppy production. A good source for the pharma industry, protected by the U.S. Military. Shades of time gone by, Air America anyone.

  • Cathy Freeman

    I have a rare cancer. It killed my father and his sister. I heard a “podcast” from a fellow patient who was saying that his opiod use had stopped when he started a cannabis treatment. Thus, possibly, could cannabis be a replacement. No one has ever died of a cannabis overdose.

    • Ginin Abottle

      Ohh poor little you. I’m sorry to hear that but you can’t go on marijuana legally anymore!

      You’re all doomed LOL

      • Genin, unless you are a scientist, somebody should slap the rude out of you. And I am in line. Go to a VA hospital, talk to veterans in pain, and try saying that. The only reason you aren’t speaking German is because of brave vets that sometimes come home draped in a flag at only 18 years old. LOL on that you witch.

  • pamela younger

    Does any have knowledge regarding a cannabis patent applied for and obtained in 2003 – owned by U.S.A. Government for controll of ALL cannabis based substances???

    • aCountryVegan

      U.S. Patent No. 6,630,507 covers the potential use of non-psychoactive cannabinoids — chemical compounds found within the plant species cannabis sativa — to protect the brain from damage or degeneration caused by certain diseases, such as cirrhosis.

      U.S. Patent No. 6,630,507 was granted to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2003.

      • Trimé Lodrö Jüngney

        Lets get more of these posts in this discussion!

    • pamela younger

      Thank you country vegan 💚

  • Jackson Shredder

    These ass clowns have no intentions of ending the Opioid Crisis nor do they even care. It’s real apparent when you listen to them spew !

  • Gary Craig

    Four letter describing Ms. Conway: fool!

  • Trimé Lodrö Jüngney

    If you censor comments you are no better than they are!

  • Trimé Lodrö Jüngney

    Why are you censoring my comments?

    • Etidorhpa

      They always censor my post . That’s because i’m pro life, pro Trump, against illegal immigration , and believe all other drugs outside marijuana should be banned forever and that the only people that should use marijuana are responsible people.

      • Trimé Lodrö Jüngney

        Even though I may not agree with some of your comments. I believe you have the right to say what you want. This is what this country was built on. Many have forgotten. Also, please remember that this is operated by children. However, there are some older people in Leafly that had their lawyers put rules that are ridiculous. And again it all goes back to accountability and killing our freedom of speech. It they allow these discussions they should not be censored. I believe that if a posting has language unbecoming and attacks on others. Then, they should remove them.

      • Trimé Lodrö Jüngney

        They are censoring my post again!

      • Jeffrey Avery

        no,its because your a ….insert aprpriate remark hear,,,they’re hammering me also,,,but mines for being snarky,,,if they let you on ,its because they feel sorry for you

  • Trimé Lodrö Jüngney

    Stop censoring my comments

  • Trimé Lodrö Jüngney

    Leafly is is censoring comments!

  • Trimé Lodrö Jüngney

    Stop Censoring my Comments!

    There is no opioid crisis. It has been contrived into Opioid Hysteria because the Doctors are cutting patients off and kicking them out. (I am one of them) Those are the “Good” numbers you see. They are not getting the information from patients they are getting it from the criminals. The states that are doing this are criminals allowing what they call “Paint Management Centers.” to be sharks in the water making billions off of people in pain. Most do not take insurance and the ones that do are over billing insurance companies and medicare. Hey insurance companies you are getting screwed too. I have been and seen this in 3 states. It is disgusting what the doctors are doing. I have been through 8 doctors in 3 states until I found one that understands pain and how to get off the meds correctly and not kick me out. because no-one will prescribe them. So you have no choice. You will find this in most organized medical establishments like OSHU (what a toilet) in Oregon (Who pushed this BS report that was released with no data that is conclusive.) Providence Health Care in Oregon and MUSC in South Carolina. It is amazing how these doctors have forgotten their reason for becoming a doctor when they received their license. They and their supervisors need their license suspended for at least 2 years for what they are doing. Cover your a** and screw the patient. I ended up in a wheel chair in Oregon because of this mess. I was also black listed in all medical establishments buy OSHU and Providence Health Care in Oregon. I called 35 lawyers in Oregon about what they were doing and they were all part of it and would not take the case. No one would help me nail these corrupt people to the wall. In South Carolina. They just cut you off and through you out. There is much more to this and I want to get them all in a class action. I would like to find a layer to make a larger case about this illusion. The only reality is the fact that thousands of people are ether dying because of heart failure because of withdraw shock, Some are locked up as criminals, getting drugs off the street and dyeing because the meds they are getting are dirty. Do you all see my point here? If there is any layer or organization that will start a class action suite to the over 14 hospitals and their organized “Pain Clinics” including the state agencies allowing and even helping the doctors do this to patients. Yes, some patients are abusing and so are doctors. It is all going to come out one day and I want to head the attack.
    Sincerely. FSW

  • Trimé Lodrö Jüngney

    You are censoring my comments!

    • leaflysocial

      Your comment was removed because it violated terms of service – spamming of self or services. If you’d like to read full terms of service for reviews, please check out Section 5.2 of Leafly’s Terms of Use — We have explained, specifically, through email which part of your message was a violation. We do not censor comments, but do hold all users to the same agreement. Let us know if you have further questions.

      • Trimé Lodrö Jüngney

        Well, I fought back and my post was put back with a few changes. But I got it back!. If you are being censored. Go to Leafly and make a big push and you will get your post back. They do not want any bad press. They know me! If they mess with my comments. I will put it in every paper in this country. I have been in the music and review business for years. I have the contacts and I will use them.

  • swamp boy

    what is the problem with these people ?We are the experiment and were telling them” study is finished and medical marijuana is OK.” They have had 50 years to come up with their excuses and they now say its throwing gasoline on the fire that they started .NICE they dont give a shit about us,so we keep buying it from the cartel LOL

    • Lottie Parker

      or visiting Colorado

  • Jeff Hudson

    Cannabis is not addictive. However addiction to opioids is real and occurs rather quickly. Imagine, if cannabis had never been put on Schedule 1 in the first place we probably would not be going through this opioid epidemic today. Shame on Nixon and the various special interests that caused the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) to include cannabis in Schedule 1 especially since the CSA uses the pejorative term marijuana instead of the official name cannabis.

  • Cannabis Prohibition is the “Opioid Problem”…

    • Trimé Lodrö Jüngney

      Your got that right! I am sick of the censoring of this discussion and others because of some bureaucrat or lawyer wrote something “In their rules” that takes away our freedom of speech. Because they are also cowards. I have has so many problems with Leafly with their disinformation and cannabis reviews and good places to go. They only want nice and happy things to be said. Well, wake up!

      • Trimé Lodrö Jüngney

        They are censoring my post again! It is almost time to email the new wires.

      • Yes. IF Corporate Logos have free speech, I have free speech. Really Simple Math.

  • Gerald Garrett

    Laws are passed to control the populace. The populace wants to expand their minds with cannabis. Our government is into MIND CONTROL.

  • Trimé Lodrö Jüngney

    As I said before there is no Opioid Crises! I have been looking all over for the data behind the number of deaths and I can not find it. Just like the fraudulent report out of Washington state that has no data behind it either. I have seen so many horrible things since 2014 release of that fraudulent report. And the states and doctors kicking out patients and cutting them off. I have seen this in 3 states. I am one of these patients. Some of the states that support these Pill and Needle Mills aka “Pain Management Centers.” Bill medicare with illegal billing and they will cut you off just like the doctors. They do secret drug screenings and call it kidney and liver function tests and the will drop you in a second if you test positive for Cannabinoids. Even in states where cannabis is legal. Do not let them drug test you. Deny all urine tests that just pops up and they give you strange answers. I do not let anyone test my urine!

    Has anybody recorded the deaths of people that have been kicked out of doctors offices and medical institutions. They die because they go into withdrawal and there bodies give in and they die of respiratory failure and heart attacks. Because the withdrawals are worse than heroin. Some have to go to the street or overseas to get pain meds. Many die because the drugs are dirty. The main problem here is accountability. All of them are cowards. The states that indorse this, The CDC, and most of all these doctors that are throwing people that actually need chronic pain medications. It is all or nothing! I have been there and I have been kick out of OSHU, Providence, MUSC and 4 of the pill and needle outfits for speaking my mind. Yes, if you advocate your medical your screwed.

    It is a tragedy that this is being distorted. And even more so is this administration that will continue to take away medications as they wish. I am pro cannabis and have been for years. It stops pain and helps with all kinds if illness. The data is there from all over the world. However, we have an administration that dose not care. It love stigma and creating drama to get attention ad keep their money in their pockets. This administration only wants to destroy what this country was. They only care about themselves. Everyone hates Americans now more than ever. And all these states that support secret drug testing in the medical environments are criminal.

    I can go on but you all should get the point.
    Don’t let this administration and its followers destroy this country and the medical system.
    Because in the next year everything will change and not for the better of it people.
    Be pro cannabis. It is the best medication!

  • Trimé Lodrö Jüngney

    They are censoring my post again!

  • Trimé Lodrö Jüngney

    You are censoring my post again

  • Trimé Lodrö Jüngney

    Why are you censoring my postings?

    • leaflysocial

      Your posts have been caught my our automatic moderation filters which means they are held until human moderators can review and approve/reject your comments based on Leafly’s Terms of Use. Reviews are moderated Monday-Friday. Reviews left over weekends or holidays are not moderated until the following business day. If you have questions about Leafly’s review moderation process, please reach out at

      • Trimé Lodrö Jüngney

        Just say it like it is. You are censoring. You are taking our right for free speech. Everyone, I suggest not even spending time here. The real comments are censored. They have their lawyers involved to protect them now. Go to a real site that has freedom of speech. Don’t you see Leafly. You are causing more damage than good by doing this. You are too young to understand and you do not what to take accountability. Just like our new president, the new hand picked ( kiss a** ) administration, the feds and the CDC.

        • Sherry Thostenson

          Why don’t you just go away then?

          • Trimé Lodrö Jüngney

            What is your problem? You just attack someone for no reason. I have been getting Leafly to repost my posts because I believe in freedom of speech and there are important things that I know that would benefit this issue. No I wont leave and they are now posted. You may want to read them. You may learn something. Imagine not being able to walk for 5 years and all your doctors removed all your medications you need to get up and be able to walk without pain. How do you think you would feel? Now having to move to SC to help my mother in-law and it is even more corrupt here. Now this Babe Trump Declares Opioid Health Emergency “Sessions Blames Cannabis.” What a farce! Thank goodness that he has been served with indictments and the whole administration is gonna fry for what these people have done people and to this country. To Sherry Thostenson: If you do not have anything good to say don’t say anything at all. ☠️

  • Trimé Lodrö Jüngney

    It is useless to have a discussion here. it is censored and controlled. I suggest you take your comments to as site that is not part of the game.

  • Ginin Abottle

    That’s right! No more hope for your precious fertilizer! The weed industry is doomed! LOLOL! You’re all going to go down and never get back up LOLOLOL!