The Evidence Says Legal Marijuana Reduces Opioid Deaths But Chris Christie Won't Believe It
Christie, chairman of a presidential commission on the opioid addiction epidemic, links marijuana to overdose deaths despite all the evidence to the contrary and none in support.
He may soon be out as governor of New Jersey, but Chris Christie continues to have an impact on one of his favorite topics: the legalization of marijuana.
He’s not for it. He made that clear once again this month. As chairman of a committee appointed by President Donald Trump to make recommendations on dealing with the nation’s opioid crisis, Christie took the opportunity to again attack cannabis legalization.
In a letter submitted with a report from the Trump-appointed Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, Christie compared legalization of marijuana to the expanded use of opioids in the 1990s and early 2000s.
“The Commission urges that the same mistake is not made with the uninformed rush to put another drug legally on the market in the midst of an overdose epidemic,” he wrote.
On Oct. 26, Trump declared the opioid crisis a national public health emergency. The numbers are indeed staggering. According to the commission, 175 people die every day in the United States from drug overdose. “If a terrorist organization was killing 175 Americans a day on American soil, what would we do to stop them?” Christie wrote. “We would do anything and everything.”
The commission made a number of recommendations. They include:
- A national multimedia campaign teaching children about the dangers of drugs and potential for addiction
- Placing more nurses and counselors in elementary, middle and high schools to help at-risk students
- Block grant federal funding for states to pay for anti-opioid programs
- Providing incentives for drug companies to develop non-opioid pain management drugs
While marijuana has emerged as a possible alternative to opioids for pain management, the commission does not recommend its use. In his letter, Christie cited the National Institute on Drug Abuse research that found “marijuana use led to a 2 ½ times greater chance that the marijuana user would become an opioid user and abuser.
“The commission found this very disturbing.”
Others, however, have found the commission’s attack on marijuana itself disturbing.
Dr. Chinazo Cunningham, a professor of medicine at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, told CNN that “I was surprised to see negative language about marijuana in the opioid report.”
Cunningham also said that actual research does not back up the claim in the report that marijuana use increases the chances of opioid addiction. Cunningham’s own research has found that in states where marijuana is legal, opioid overdose deaths fell by 25 percent.
Cunningham noted that the continued illegality of marijuana under federal law has kept doctors and scientists from doing thorough research on the potential medical uses for marijuana.
Sanjay Gupta, the chief medical correspondent for CNN, also said there is little evidence marijuana leads to abuse of harder drugs. However, alcohol and nicotine have proved to be indicators of future drug abuse, he said.