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America's Exit Drugs
Is the Biden-Harris Administration really leaving no stone unturned in the fight against overdoses and opioid addiction?
On the campaign trail, President Biden promised to “decriminalize the use of cannabis and automatically expunge all prior cannabis use convictions.” He even promised to “end all incarceration for drug use alone.” Since taking office, he’s fulfilled neither of those promises.
The Administration’s defenders say that addressing the overdose and addiction epidemics is simply a higher priority at the moment. With hundreds of thousands of Americans dying of overdoses each year and millions more addicted to powerful opioids, they argue, you’ll just have to excuse the President for not having gotten around to cannabis and psychedelics reform.
That argument may seem compelling, but only if you assume that cannabis and/or psychedelics aren’t part of the solution. Trouble is, there is powerful evidence that they are.
Don’t believe me? Fair enough. Perhaps you’ll believe NIDA Director, Dr. Nora Volkow, and former NIH Director and recently named “Science Advisor to the President,” Dr. Francis S. Collins. In a 2017 article published in one of the most prestigious peer-reviewed medical journals on the planet, they recognized that “[t]here is strong evidence of the efficacy of cannabinoids, including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), in treating pain” and concluded that “[m]edications that target the endocannabinoid system … could provide a powerful new tool” for “chronic pain management.” And studies, including clinical trials, investigating the use of psychedelics for opioid use disorder are already underway.
Yet the Wall Street Journal recently quoted one lawmaker who opposes cannabis reform because, in his words, “[w]e have enough problems with gateway drugs the way that it is right now.” While he’s unquestionably right that America has a problem with gateway drugs, it seems he is laboring under the long-ago-discredited view that cannabis is a gateway drug. In fact, however, as Drs. Collins and Volkow recognized in 2017, America’s gateway drugs are pharmaceutical opiods. With millions of Americans struggling with opioid use disorder and thousands overdosing on fentanyl every year, that much should be obvious to anyone paying attention. Their more significant insight, however, is that there is powerful evidence that cannabis and (I would submit) psychedelics can be America’s “exit drugs.”
Put simply, the seriousness of America’s overdose and addiction epidemic makes the need for cannabis and psychedelics reform more—not less—urgent.