Blumenauer Calls for Cannabis Research to Combat Opioid Crisis

(Susan Walsh/AP)

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) has made it a hallmark of his career to speak up for medical cannabis, legalization, and the transformative effect reform could have on the United States. He consistently introduces and cosponsors bills to legalize cannabis federally, as well as many efforts to improve the legal marijuana markets already in place.

His latest remarks took place on the floor of the US House Committee on Energy and Commerce. The topic was the opioid epidemic, and when Blumenauer took the floor, clad in his signature bowtie, a bicycle pin peering out from the label of his blazer, he didn’t mince words.

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“I appreciate the focus on the opioid crisis that grips every community, to some degree, and affects every state. Especially critical for our veterans, who are twice as likely to die of accidental overdose. As we’re slowly acknowledging the depths of the opioid crisis, which is good, we seldom acknowledge one of the simplest, most effective solutions: medical marijuana, cannabis. Now available in 28 states, largely driven by the voters,” he said, gesturing emphatically to drive the point home. “Not the politicians.”

He distributed a one-sheet page of information, complete with sources cited, to the members of the committee, entitled “Physician Guide to Cannabis-Assisted Opioid Reduction,” referencing how cannabis can reduce opioid overdose deaths, can reduce opioid consumption in general, and can help prevent dose escalation, as well as the development of an opioid tolerance.

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He paused and looked up to address the floor. “Mr. Chairman, we don’t talk much about this, although repeatedly on the floor over the last three years, Congress has been moving in this direction, and voted, last Congress to have the Veteran’s Administration be able to work with veterans in states where medical marijuana is legal.”

“But I focus on just one, simple item. Not the facts,” he patted the large packet of paper on the desk in front of him, “which I hope this committee would look at,” he added.

He was referring to a piece of legislation he recently introduced with a very odd bedfellow for a cannabis bill, Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD). Rep. Harris, in the past, has been far from a cannabis advocate; in fact, he was deemed quite the opposite in years past. When the District of Columbia legalized cannabis for adult use, he fought against legal retail cannabis stores, and against cannabis social clubs.

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“There’s one piece of legislation that I’ve introduced with Dr. Andy Harris, someone who doesn’t agree with me about the efficacy of medical marijuana,” Rep. Blumenauer was quick to admit. “But he strongly agrees with me that there’s no longer any reason for the federal government to interfere with research to be able to prove it.”

Their newly introduced bipartisan legislation, House Resolution 3391, would cut through the bureaucratic red tape on federally funded cannabis research by amending the Controlled Substances Act to make marijuana more easily accessible to medical researchers.

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“The federal government has a stranglehold on this research,” Blumenauer explained. “We have bipartisan legislation, which would break that stranglehold and be able to have robust research to resolve these questions so there would no longer be any doubt.”

He finished his remarks with a final, impassioned plea. “This is the cheapest, most effective way to stop the crisis. Where people have access to medical marijuana, there are fewer overdoses, and people opt for it daily with chronic pain,” he implored. “I would appreciate the subcommittee looking at this issue as your time permits.”

Physician Guide to Cannabis-Assisted Opioid Reduction (Distributed by EB) by Lisa Rough on Scribd