Every time you turn around, there is another story about marijuana reform in America. Regardless of which side of the argument you stand, you consistently read new headlines to ponder regarding how cannabis is making its way into the mainstream. In many states, reform has been embraced with open arms and surprising public support. However, there are also cases where marijuana reform is being faced with strong opposition. Now, you can consider New Hampshire as one of these instances. This week, a House committee voted to approve a new marijuana legalization bill.
Due to the notably high rates of opioid overdoses in the state of New Hampshire, many are contesting marijuana legalization. The Granite State has been hit pretty hard by the ongoing epidemic, and many officials feel that pushing for legal cannabis will only make the drug problem worse.
Government Officials Pushing Back
Governor Chris Sununu is just one of many officials in New Hampshire trying to put a stop the marijuana legalization. They insist that the issue isn’t only concerning cannabis, but also opioids and other drugs.
It is understandable that people are hesitant to embrace drug reform policies in an area that has one of the highest per capita death rates due to opioid overdose in the country. Citizens and communities all over the state have suffered, while money and resources have been pouring into efforts to combat overdose deaths. Therefore, opponents of marijuana legalization are insisting it is too risky to consider easy access to any drug at this point.
Governor Sununu states,
“When we are dealing with opioids as the single biggest health crisis this state has ever had, you are going to tell me legalizing more drugs is the answer? Absolutely not.”
Many still argue that marijuana is a gateway drug and that by allowing recreational access to cannabis they will be effectively increasing the rate of opioid abuse. This is instigating a further national discussion about whether or not marijuana use is a gateway to opioid abuse.
Sununu may be a Republican, but the opposition to legalization is not exclusively partisan. In fact, both New Hampshire Senators, Senator Jeanne Shaheen, and Senator Maggie Hassan, are Democrats that express their own opposition to marijuana legalization. Sununu even has the state commission on alcohol and drug abuse against the legislation.
Additionally, plenty of residents also support the push back. Many believe New Hampshire should focus on addressing the opioid crisis before considering cannabis reform. Ronald G. Shaiko, who is studying public policy and social sciences at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, says that many residents feel that the government hasn’t responded well enough to the opioid epidemic. Therefore, most are skeptical about adding more drugs into the mix.
Marijuana Legalization VS Opioid Addiction
Proponents of cannabis reform do not dismiss the opioid crisis, but instead, argue that increasing access to marijuana could actually reduce rates of opioid overdose. This is a movement that has also begun gaining ground in recent years. State Representative Renny Cushing, who is sponsoring the legalization bill, stated:
“What we’ve come to understand is that marijuana in many instances is an exit drug, not a gateway drug.”
Legalization supports point to a 2018 study that shows an association between daily marijuana use and remaining in medication-assisted treatment (MAT) programs. Additionally, a 2014 study found that states with medical marijuana had lower death rates from opioid overdoses. Some states are now encouraging marijuana use instead of opioids or making opioid addiction a qualifying condition to receive a medical marijuana prescription.
New Bill Barely Passes
Even with a bipartisan message of caution, the new legislation to establish recreational marijuana in New Hampshire appears to be moving forward. Advocates for the new bill believe that Governor Sununu is fear mongering and using the opioid crisis to block the Democratic-controlled state legislature.
The New England area is known for embracing more liberal policies on social issues. Following the other states in the New England area, New Hampshire legalized medical marijuana in 2013. Then during Sununu’s administration, the state decriminalized marijuana possession in small amounts in 2017.
This new bill will make it legal for people over the age of 21 years old to possess, consume, buy and grow small amounts of marijuana. The bill also makes an effort to establish a commission responsible for licensing and regulating:
- Retail establishments
One state commission states that the tax revenue from a new cannabis industry could give New Hampshire between $15.3 million and $57.8 million a year. The financial benefits of cannabis reform have been a real selling point in many states. To put it in perspective, California:
- Taxes all sales of recreational and medical marijuana by 15%
- Made over $2.75 billion on recreational sales
- Added over 80,000 new jobs with cannabis sales
Needless to say, that is a lot of money. Some estimate the legal cannabis industry could grow to a whopping $25 billion in 2025.
Another huge selling point of the bill for many people is that it would expunge prior convictions for offenses relating to cannabis that are made legal under the new law.
The New Hampshire House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee approved the bill on Thursday, February 21, 2019, in a 10-9 vote, cutting it incredibly close. However, Governor Sununu has reportedly vowed to veto the bill if it reaches his desk. Meanwhile, House Speaker Steve Shurtleff believes there are enough votes in his chamber, and maybe in the Senate as well, to override a veto from the Governor.
There does not seem to be one easy answer for the cannabis debate going on in New Hampshire. For the moment, both sides seem confident in their stance. Even experts who believe cannabis may be useful in helping fight opioid addiction say that more research is necessary. Therefore, many experts insist marijuana should not be used as a substitute for other methods of MAT.
Tym Rourke, a member of the state commission on alcohol and drug abuse who oversees addiction-related programs for the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, makes a good case for proceeding with caution. Rourke points out that while marijuana could be more or less safe for the average person, that doesn’t mean it is safe for everyone. Rourke states,
“For some people, it’s unsafe. And as we are grappling with a high volume of individuals struggling with the consequences of substance misuse, do we really want to create a system that puts another substance more into the marketplace or more into their presence?”
This is a sentiment echoed by many addiction recovery advocates. There are those who believe in studying the benefits, but many holds with the idea that even if some are able to safely use cannabis, the same may not be true for many of those with substance use disorders. Therefore, as the movement for marijuana legalization continues, we should still be aware of those who could be at risk of relapse or prolonged drug use.
Even if marijuana is legal in certain areas, there should still be support for resources that treat people suffering due to substance abuse. Even if you don’t believe marijuana is a gateway drug, it can still be risky for those in recovery. Furthermore, marijuana addiction is possible for some, even if it is not as life-threatening as heroin addiction. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
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Right now a few American cities are aiming to establish active safe injection sites, with most recent reports indicating the first will probably be San Francisco. Currently, the Golden Gate City is on track to open two of these facilities in July. Meanwhile, Philadelphia is not far behind as city officials are pushing forward with a proposition from January. Other areas fighting for the controversial programs include Seattle and Baltimore.
Now it seems this fight for safe injection sites may soon pit state governments against the federal government, as the DEA under the Trump administration vows to take action against these facilities.
Safe Injection Sites for San Francisco
The city of San Francisco has an estimated 22,000 intravenous drug users. As of now, it has become the norm to see people injecting drugs in broad daylight on a park bench, public transit, or any sidewalk. As a consequence, dirty needles get left out in the open. So the decision by San Francisco officials to establish safe injection sites isn’t all that alarming.
Safe injection sites mean fewer needles on the streets. Reports from public health officials expect that 85% of the intravenous drug users in the city would use these sites, and the city could potentially save $3.5 million a year in medical costs. According to the director of San Francisco’s Department of Public Health, Barbara Garcia, officials are already working out the details. Garcia is currently working with six to eight nonprofits that already provide needle exchange programs and other addiction services. Two of them will soon be operating as safe injection sites.
Garcia says that because the cities fiscal year will begin on July 1, the process of opening these safe injection sites should begin close to that date. She also adds that once officials are able to examine how the first two sites are working, they can decide if and when to open the third and fourth sites.
Because intravenous drug use is still against state and federal law, the city will be avoiding liability by funding these sites through private investments. Garcia did not include where the money would be coming from. Garcia also does not appear to be too concerned about whether opening safe injection sites will draw the ire of the Trump administration, saying,
“That’s to be seen. I’m more worried about people dying in our streets.”
Given the rates of intravenous drug use and overdose death in the area, that sounds like a reasonable reason to worry. Part of operating safe injection sites also means providing a supervising medical staff equipped with overdose antidotes, and offering addiction treatment resources to those willing to seek help.
Hope for Harm Reduction
State Senator Scott Wiener is also working to get state law changed to ensure that anybody associated with safe injection sites won’t face arrest or punishment, including:
- Property owners
- Drug users themselves
The bill Wiener is pushing was last year passed in the Assembly, but remains two votes short of confirmation in the Senate.
Part of the reason for so many officials pushing to protect and advance this project seems to come from a fair amount of public support. For the first time, the Chamber of Commerce’s Dignity Health CityBeat Poll included a question about safe injection sites this year. It asked respondents whether they support or oppose-
“drop-in facilities called safe injection sites where intravenous drug users could use their drugs, off the street, and in a place where medical and social services are available.”
Out of all those who answered the survey:
- 67% of respondents said they support the idea
- 45% of those were ‘strongly’ supportive
- 22% of those were ‘somewhat’ supportive
- Only 27% percent opposed it
- 6% didn’t know
The poll found support for the sites regardless of:
The demographics also includes support from:
- Even 42% of self-described Conservatives
Mayor Mark Farrell is another supporter who said,
“I understand the misgivings around it and some of the rhetoric from people who don’t support it, but we absolutely need to give it a try.”
While issues like homelessness, crime and gang violence were all concerns consistent with opening of injection sites, city officials seem to believe the old way isn’t working. The hope is that by providing social services and treatment options, these safe injection sites will not only save lives but help more people get off drugs that otherwise might not have access to these resources.
Trump Says Sites Will Face Legal Action
It still seems these efforts will be met with resistence from the federal government. Last week the Trump administration made it clear they reject any facilities where heroin users can inject drugs under supervision. The president and his Attorney General Jeff Sessions seem to be committed to their ‘law and order’ approach to the drug problem, despite any lessons learned by the failed War on Drugs.
One might note that in general, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency views safe-injection sites as facilitation of criminal behavior. Therefore, it’s an absolute possibility the DEA will take some kind of enforcement action against any safe injection sites that pop up in the states. Katherine Pfaff, a DEA spokesperson, argued that these programs remain federally prohibited. She states,
“Supervised injection facilities, or so-called safe injection sites, violate federal law. Any facilitation of illicit drug use is considered in violation of the Controlled Substances Act and, therefore, subject to legal action.”
However, it appears some of the states that have approved safe injection sites are already preparing to do legal battle with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his Justice Department to convince the courts that this public health emergency is far too critical to pass up any opportunity at harm reduction.
So, what is going to become of this new controversy? More people, including law enforcement officials and conservatives, could be warming up to the idea of cleaning up the streets with safe injection sites in some states. If the DEA make moves to shut them down, what will happen next? Are safe injection sites an acceptable form of harm reduction? If not, what else could help address the opioid crisis?
Let us know in the comments what you think about these programs.
Palm Healthcare Company believes in providing an effective, holistic treatment program to help those suffering who need help. Providing safe and comprehensive care should always be a focus in the effort to overcome the drug problem, and preservation of life should always be a priority. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
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Last Thursday, over two years after Republican Governor Gregg Abbott signed the law to legalize the sale of specific cannabis oil in Texas for intractable epilepsy, the first legal delivery in the state was made.
Many medical cannabis advocates are calling this a historic moment for the Lone Star State, as it could be the catalyst to usher in a new era of drug policy as it relates to medicinal alternatives.
The First Delivery
The first recipient of medical cannabis oil in Texas was a school-aged child. A spokesperson for the company told reporters that it could not disclose which city the patient lives in, but did share how the delivery was made.
Current regulations dictate that only a social worker or nurse can deliver the medical cannabis product to a patient or the patient’s caregiver. In the case of Texas’s first delivery, a nurse transported the oil to the patient’s home. The nurse also showed the patient how to use it.
The first delivery was made by Knox Medical, a dispensary in Schulenburg. José Hidalgo, the founder, and CEO of Knox Medical stated,
“For Texans suffering from intractable epilepsy, the wait for medical cannabis is finally over. This is a historic day for Texas and we will work tirelessly to uphold the trust and responsibility the state has placed in Knox Medical.”
Notably, less than 1% of the population of Texas suffer from intractable epilepsy. But still, that comes out to roughly 160,000 people.
Texas Medical Cannabis Law
At this point, there are only three licensed medical cannabis dispensaries in the state of Texas. These facilities were allowed to be opened following the 2015 Texas Compassion Use Act. But the programs are run by the Texas Department of Public Safety. However, Texas has not been as open with their medical cannabis movement as other parts of the country. As of now, state law scarcely allows for the sale of medical cannabis oils. The only oils to be sold are those that meet requirements:
- Low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive element in marijuana known as THC.
- High levels of cannabidiol, a non-euphoric component known as CBD that is used to treat epilepsy and other chronic medical conditions.
And patients themselves have to meet very specific criteria. A person only qualifies if:
- They are a permanent resident of Texas
- Have been diagnosed with intractable epilepsy
- Must have tried two FDA-approved drugs and found them ineffective
- Qualified physician has determined they would benefit from medical cannabis
- Have a second qualified physician agree with the assessment that they would benefit
Qualified doctors must be listed on the Compassionate Use Registry of Texas.
Needless to say, Texans won’t be rushing out to dispensaries anytime soon to stock up on medicinal marijuana. State officials seem to have a very precise mission in mind when it comes to allowing for this treatment to go forward. Still, some medical cannabis supporters are happy with the direction. So how do products like medical cannabis and CBD oil impact those trying to recovery from addiction?
Legalization and Recovery
In the world of recovery from drugs or alcohol, the idea that marijuana legalization is becoming more widely accepted may seem tempting to some. Others seem to believe legalizing marijuana invites more hard drug use. What does it really mean for the recovery community or people struggling with addiction?
Legalizing a drug and having it readily available may be tempting, but it’s not as if it isn’t already done everywhere with alcohol. Almost any store you walk into is stocked with booze and plastered with adds to try and sell cigarettes. People in recovery from addiction are already exposed every day to some of the most dangerous drugs in the world because they are legal.
When we talk about legalization of marijuana, we want to remind people that for many struggling with substance use disorder the issue is not the specific chemicals you are using. Addiction is far more complex, influencing the mind while terrorizing the body. A drug is not suddenly any safer or better for you because it is becoming socially acceptable or legal.
It is important to find a middle ground. We can support those who benefit from new modalities while offering effective treatment opportunities to those who struggle. However, it is also important to offer experience and education for those who truly struggle with chemical dependency and everything else that comes with substance use disorder. It may seem easier to justify using marijuana for some people. But people should also know that marijuana abuse is a real risk. Substituting one drug for another is probably not the best option for some habitual drug users.
Medicinal and recreational marijuana reforms may be changing the way that the law dictates drug use for some, but for the addict or alcoholic, the risk can be far greater than they expect. Part of comprehensive and effective recovery is understanding how drugs affect people differently and learning how to make the best decisions for your health and your future. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help.
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In the wake of all the turmoil created by the white nationalist rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia this month the conversation on oppression, cultural tension and systematic racism has become unavoidable. With counter-protesters in large numbers present to oppose the white nationalist factions, violence eventually erupted. In the end there were 3 dead, at least 19 reportedly injured and a community in chaos.
From the moment the incident turned volatile everyone from every day citizens, to celebrities and activists, to democrats and republicans have spoken out about the atrocities of that day. Outrage and discourse has followed in every form, with some disgusted to see white supremacists chanting Nazi slogans walking with KKK members and heavily armed militia down a street in the heart of America.
While many voices with varying degrees of contempt have been heard, one Drug Policy Alliance director is using hers to make a connection between the ideology of white supremacy and the failed War on Drugs.
The Drug Policy Alliance
For some background on the Drug Policy Alliance, it is an organization committed to helping influence national drug policy reform. The DPA emphasizes the need to have drug policies on the use and regulation of drugs that are based on science, compassion, health and human rights.
According to the DPA, the drug war in America has produced ‘profoundly unequal outcomes across racial groups’. Much of this inequality is said to stem from the disproportionate and devastating impact of the War on Drugs in communities of color, fueled by racial discrimination by law enforcement.
Despite the fact that drug use and drug trafficking rates are comparable across all races, the DPA states that compared to white Americans in drug law violations, people of color are far more likely to be:
Statistics on the DPA website state that African Americans:
- Only make up 14% of regular drug users
- Yet they make up 37% of those arrested for drug offenses
War on Drugs and Racism
By now the idea that the War on Drugs has had an unjust impact on minority communities is nothing new. Some may argue these points, but for many years researchers from all over the country have done the due diligence before deciding to speak out against the racial element to the failed War on Drugs.
It has been proven the majority of drug users in the United States are white, and yet African Americans are the largest group being targeted with arrests and charges of possession. This alone has been enough to convince many advocates that white supremacy, whether you want to argue intentional or subconscious, has played a part in the War on Drugs and how it has damaged the country. America’s drug war enforces some of the most controversial pieces of legislation and drug policy, including:
- Mandatory minimum penalties
- Stop-and-frisk searches
Both of these concepts have faced frequent opposition for effecting minorities disproportionately.
The War on Drugs doesn’t just damage individual lives. It harms African-American communities as a whole. Social scientists still assert that the War on Drugs could not be maintained without societal racism and the manipulation of racial stereotypes. Even a former aide to President Nixon, who began the War on Drugs in the 80s, has suggested that the War on Drugs was racially and politically motivated.
DPA VS Trump Administration
Megan Farrington, one of the directors of the Drug Policy Agency (DPA) has taken a firm stance on the subject following the President’s comments last Tuesday regarding the tragic events that sparked division and outrage over the past few weeks. In her comments Farrington calls out those responsible for shaping drug policy today, while condemning the archaic strategies that many say have helped bring the issue to where it is today.
President Donald Trump responded to the Charlottesville tragedy with comments insisting we should place blame on ‘both sides’ during a statement that has become widely criticized and caused a great deal of contention among politicians and everyday people alike. Those who are outraged at the President’s comments claim his statements seem to sound like the words of a ‘nazi/white nationalist apologist’, while others insist that because the counter-protestors fought back, they are to blame as well.
Following the President’s statement, DPA director Farrington tweeted:
“There is no ‘both sides’ to racial hatred, nothing ambiguous about white supremacy. We will continue to fight for justice and against hate.”
During her engagement in the debate, Farrington went a step further than refuting the President’s claims; she called out the entire system for a failed War on Drugs as part of the problem with racial oppression, stating:
“The drug war is a tool of racial oppression. When white supremacists chant Nazi slogans and our president defends them, we have to speak out. If we fight the racism inherent in the drug war but allow it to go unchecked elsewhere, our work may take down one tool only to see it replaced with another.”
It wasn’t just Karrington who went on the offensive after the Charlottesville incident or the president’s comments. The DPA’s senior director of national affairs, Bill Piper, also chimed in on the action, condemning not only the president’s statement, but also Jeff Sessions, the administration’s controversial attorney general. While the piece from Piper called out Trump and Bannon, the focal point of the fury was aimed at Sessions and his past controversy regarding race. Piper states:
“Sessions has a long record of hostility to justice and civil liberties… He was denied a federal judgeship in the 80s because the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee found that he had a record of racist statements and actions. A black colleague testified at the time that Sessions referred to him as ‘boy.’ Sessions referred to the NAACP and other civil rights organizations as un-American groups that ‘forced civil rights down the throats of people.’ He even reportedly said he thought the KKK was ‘OK’ until he found out its members smoked pot.”
This isn’t the only reason people like Piper are upset about Sessions. Only six months into his position as US Attorney General, Sessions has already started back-tracking drug policy to recapture the drug war days. Attorney General Sessions has already urged law enforcement to pursue stricter sentences in drug cases and increased the use of civil asset forfeiture.
Race Should Not Matter in Recovery
While opinions still clash over the idea that race played a huge part in the implementation of the War on Drugs, and many will continue to insist that white supremacy has never influenced drug policy, others are not so sure. Piper adds in his statement:
“The role the drug war, and punitive criminal justice policies more generally, play in perpetuating white supremacy should be at the top of the list. At the very least, policymakers who ignore the issue should be seen as suspect. Racial justice requires massive criminal justice reform.”
Either way we look at it though, the War on Drugs has failed us for many reasons. It was far too expensive for the devastating results it has yielded. It reinforced stigma against drug use and those struggling with addiction. And most experts agree that it had a disproportionate impact on minority communities. Even if we ignore the conclusions of researchers advocating for minorities, we should all be able to see that overall the drug war has been a tool of oppression, not transformation.
Much like discrimination and racism, overcoming substance use and addiction begins with raising awareness and being open to compassionate conversation. Recovery, both personal and as a community, begins with acceptance and working together. Palm Healthcare Company is committed to working with every walk of life in every community to try and inspire transformation that can save a life, and change the world. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398