When It Comes To The Issue Of Cannabis And Opioids, The DEA Admits It Knows Nothing

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director May 15, 2018

    In testimony before Congress last week, by DEA acting administrator Robert Patterson opined that the medicalization of cannabis is exacerbating opioid abuse. But when prompted to provide evidence in support of the agency’s position, he acknowledged that he could not. Further, he denied being aware of any evidence — including recent, well-publicized studies by the US National Academy of Sciences and others — indicating that cannabis mitigates pain or that its legal access is associated with reduced levels of opioid-related mortality.

    I summarize this mind-boggling exchange in my recent Hill op-ed, which is excerpted below

    Specifically, when asked by Florida Republican Matt Gaetz if the DEA was aware of the landmark 2017 National Academy of Sciences study finding, “There is conclusive or substantial evidence that cannabis [is] effective for the treatment for chronic pain,” Patterson answered that he was not.

    He further acknowledged that he was unfamiliar with several state-specific, longitudinal studies, such as those from Minnesota and New Mexico, finding that chronic pain patients who register to partake in cannabis therapy dramatically decrease their use of opioids and other pain-relieving drugs. (Separate assessments of state-authorized medical cannabis patients in Illinois, Michigan, New York, and elsewhere affirm these conclusions).

    He further claimed ignorance with regard to the findings of a highly publicized study in the Journal of the American Medical Association finding that medical cannabis regulation is associated with year-over-year declines in overall opioid-related mortality, including heroin overdose deaths.

    Moreover, when pressed to provide evidence — any evidence — in support of the DEA’s questionable position, Patterson readily admitted that he knew of none. In fact, upon further questioning, he acknowledged that the DEA has, to date, never even so much as reviewed the issue. He further suggested that those patients seeking an alternative to opioid analgesics may wish to try “Tylenol.”

    The testimony concluded:

    Rep. Gaetz: “You’re the acting administrator of the DEA. You cannot cite a single study that indicates that medical marijuana creates a greater challenge with opioids, and you’re unaware of the studies, including studies from the National Academies of Sciences, that demonstrate that medical marijuana can be an acceptable alternative to opioids. Is that what I’m understanding?”

    Robert Patterson: “Yes.”

    To read the entire op-ed, please click the link here.

    To watch a video of this exchange, as archived by MarijuanaMoment.net, please click here.

    54 responses to “When It Comes To The Issue Of Cannabis And Opioids, The DEA Admits It Knows Nothing”

    1. Matt says:

      Patterson, what a joke!!! More misinformation!
      DEA running out of cards to play!

    2. Matt says:

      Great piece, NORML. One out on de Blasio, too.

    3. Miles says:

      If Trump had even half a brain, the next time he uses the word “disgraceful” he should be talking about the DEA!

    4. jeff scanlan says:

      As the kids say now days, I call bullshit.

    5. Tim says:

      Why do we keep letting these ignorant(more than likely bought off by big pharms) DEA officials keep fining and jailing us when they won’t even raise their heads out from underneath the robs of big pharms. DEA is bought off. DEA only cares about big money. They will not look at any evidence that marijuana could be and is good for Americans. The DEA is going to have a lot of explaining when we finally bust their ass for lying all these years(remember reefer madness that the DEA put out that was full of lies) and ruining thousands of lives because they are bought off by big pharms). It’s time we took control of this government agency and remind them that they are not paid by big pharms but by us . We are the DEA’s boss whether they like it or not. It’s time to get these anti americans out of power so they can not rape and destroy us anymore.

      • Tommy says:

        Right on, brother. I’m ready for the revolution.

      • Dylan says:

        Love your comment-and the government is corrupt it’s all true I’m so happy Canada is about to be legal everybody knows it’s not harmful but yet they still fight why are we still living in the Stone Age money talks I guess

      • Julian says:

        Precisely: Ignorance requires a lack of knowledge. The DEA has PLENTY of information. What they lack is the power to “Just Say No” to Coerced Tax Payer Dollars. And they must be prosecuted for compensation.

      • Miles says:

        “We are the DEA’s boss”

        If we the people of this country are in fact the DEA’s boss we could fire them. The unfortunate truth is that their boss is the highest ranking members of the Congress and they seem to love what the DEA has been doing to us for decades.

        Theoretically the congress works for us so, the next time we get the chance, let’s fire them by voting DEMOCRAT!

    6. Anon says:

      You know there are deep underlying issues with the system that is set up when an agency is forced to spout off nonsense even they dont believe. They have stooped to the levels of flat earthers at this point. Absolute absence of anything resembling integrity at the DEA.

    7. YearofAction says:

      Semantics. The DEA’s Mr. Patterson and Rep. Gaetz are talking past each other. Cannabis has been shown to have medical value. Marijuana has been Scheduled to ignore its medical value. The law can split the same hairs by reforming the federal definition of marijuana to acknowledge the medical value of de-scheduled cannabis, so that the medical value of marijuana can be subsequently confirmed, like this:

      The term “marijuana” means all parts of the smoke produced by the combustion of the plant Cannabis sativa L. which is, as are the viable seeds of such plant, prohibited to be grown by or sold by any publicly traded corporation or subsidiary company, and such smoke is prohibited to be inhaled by any child or by any person bearing any firearm, as is the intake of any part or any product of such plant containing more than 0.3% THC by weight unless prescribed to such child by an authorized medical practitioner.

      This election year is a good time to contact our representatives in Congress to reform the federal definition of marijuana before rescheduling marijuana.

      • Julian says:

        Talk about semantics, Yearbait:
        Prohibiting the smoke of cannabis and throwing people in jail for consuming it that way is not “descheduling” marijuana, it’s “re” scheduling, and you know that.

        • YearofAction says:

          That’s a fair criticism. What I really meant, and should have said is, “…before removing marijuana from Schedule 1.”

          • Julian says:

            So you admit you prefer rescheduling? Not descheduling?

            • YearofAction says:

              Only Congress has the power to reform their definition of marijuana to make it uphold the Constitution by literally specifying its meaning in the Necessary and Proper way to de-schedule the versatile cannabis plant; restore the 9th and 10th Amendment rights of real people to grow and use it; protect those rights via the Supremacy Clause; and reinforce the Well Regulated Militia Clause of the 2nd Amendment. How fervently do we want them to respect the Constitution? I suspect it is I more than you.

              While the federal agencies only have the power to reschedule marijuana, Congress has the power to also de-schedule cannabis smoke. How fervently do we want the feds to stop policing cannabis smoke? I suspect it is you more than I.

              First things first, I prefer reforming the federal definition of marijuana to restore our rights to the cannabis plant by de-scheduling it, then removing marijuana from Schedule 1. I suspect the evolution to de-scheduled cannabis smoke will continue to be slow.

            • Julian says:

              You didn’t answer the question, Yearbait.

              I didn’t ask if Congress has the authority to deschedule… you know we both know that.

              I asked if YOU prefer rescheduling over descheduling marijuana?

              It seems you have no moral backbone when it comes to throwing innocent people who “smoke” marijuana in jail. The least you could do is answer the question honestly.

    8. Dain Bramage says:

      The very idea of Matt Gaetz, a rabid Trump supporter, challenging the DEA, or person place or thing, for that matter, on their grasp of the facts is classic Trumpian blame projection. (“I’m no puppet, you’re the puppet.”)

      Stoners already know about the DEA. We don’t need any lectures from the likes of Gaetz about facts. He simply does not have any room to talk.

      • Dain Bramage says:

        I hate the DEA as much as anyone. Who doesn’t? But I suggest subjecting Matt Gaetz to the same level of scrutiny about Traitor Trump, his Russian ties, his perpetual betrayal of USA, and about Gaetz’s support for such corruption; and then lets see if Gaetz fares any better under questioning.

    9. Dain Bramage says:

      Marijuana legalization will reduce the number of deaths and ruined lives from opioid use; but even more importantly, it will reduce the number of deaths and ruined lives that result from being black in America!

      The article mentions New York as one of the places where studies have been done on marijuana’s capacity for reducing opioid abuse.

      But drug prohibition does more harm than drugs. In Manhattan, blacks are arrested for marijuana at a rate that is FIFTEEN TIMES that of whites!!

      Here is a press release from the office of the Manhattan D.A.:
      MAY 15, 2018
      New Manhattan D.A. “Decline to Prosecute” Policy Effective August 1st

      Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., today announced a new effort to reduce inequality and unnecessary interactions with the criminal justice system. Beginning August 1st, the D.A.’s Office will decline to prosecute marijuana possession and smoking cases. The District Attorney’s Office has invited the City of New York to recommend limited exceptions to this policy grounded in demonstrated public safety concerns before the policy becomes effective in August. Under one analysis by the D.A.’s Office, the policy is expected to reduce Manhattan marijuana prosecutions from approximately 5,000 per year to approximately 200 per year, a 96% reduction.

      “The dual mission of the Manhattan D.A.’s Office is a safer New York and a more equal justice system,” said District Attorney Vance. “The ongoing arrest and criminal prosecution of predominantly black and brown New Yorkers for smoking marijuana serves neither of these goals. Effective August 1st, my Office will decline to prosecute marijuana possession and smoking cases. We are in discussions with the Mayor and Police Commissioner to consider limited exceptions to this policy, the goal of which is to radically reduce the criminal prosecution of these offenses.”

    10. Don Berry says:

      The eagle in the DEA logo should be wearing blinders.