The United States is in the midst of an opiate epidemic. All around the country, in every city, in every state, hundreds of thousands of Americans find themselves somewhere on the perilous path of opiate addiction. Tens of thousands of overdoses tear families apart each year and in some communities it’s a daily occurrence. Whether it’s pills or heroin billions of dollars exchanges hands in the illegal drug market and no small part of that fortune is made in the illicit opiate trade. Yet despite all of that, Attorney General Jeff Sessions continues to liken marijuana use to heroin use and continues to push for a crackdown on both recreational and medicinal cannabis; which would be a sink of very valuable resources in a time where they are clearly needed elsewhere.
Jeff Sessions has a long history of comparing marijuana to harder drugs, but amid the largest opiate epidemic the country has ever seen the attorney general continues to claim it has the same impact as heroin. The top law enforcement official in the United States consistently makes the baseless claim that marijuana is on the same level as heroin when it comes to negative impact on society.
Yet in the four states that have legalized things seem to be going just fine. With the exception of the occasional edible trip turned bad from someone new to the drug, there don’t seem to be many obvious widespread downsides to legalization. Nobody has ever died from marijuana overdose. Rates of teenage use are down in Colorado, drugged driving incidents haven’t spiked significantly, and the economies of these states are experiencing the benefits of a new found billion dollar industry.
Yet Jeff Sessions reportedly asked President Donald Trump for permission to go after medical marijuana dispensaries and the situation on the ground seems to indicate that president Trump didn’t object.
Recently in Detroit local law enforcement in tandem with national officials shut down 167 dispensaries. While many of these were operating outside the confines of Michigan state law, and certainly federal law, it still seems like a gross misallocation of resources. Especially considering the difficulty many communities in the upper Midwest are experiencing when it comes to coping with the current opiate crisis.
Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death for people under the age of 50 and the current crisis has impacted states like Michigan particularly hard. Opiate deaths increased by 15% since 2015, which was a record year to begin with as the United States saw over 52,000 overdose deaths in 2015. To put that in perspective in 1990 just over 8,000 people died from opiate overdose. Now more people die from opiate overdoses than people died of car crashes, HIV, and gun crime, in their respective peaks. Tens of thousands of people are overdosing every year and the Trump DOJ is focused on medical marijuana dispensaries.
If there was a plan for a broad increase in police activity, focused on cracking down on all forms of illicit drug use, and offering meaningful treatment or rehabilitation, that would be one thing. Instead the Trump administration has cut back on important treatment programs and funding for large swaths of American addiction treatment infrastructure. This has been coupled with a doubling down on failed police tactics as evidenced by the Detroit shut down and various statements from the DOJ likening legal marijuana to harder drugs such as heroin.
Which is a joke, an incredibly bad and dangerous joke that anyone who takes a few minutes to look the reality of the opiate crisis will see right though.