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. Mike says:

      The level of incompetence is beyond belief !

    2. Julian says:

      Great work Paul. We need a laser focus on the cooperation of willful ignorance and bloodmoney between the DEA and Big Pharma’s opioid health crisis and threat to our national security.

      Just when we think things couldnt get more hypocritical in our mation’s drug laws, Texas AG Ken Paxton, an avid prohibitionist, is reportedly suing large pharmaceutical companies, specifically Purdue to blame for the opioid crisis under “false and deceptive practises” for misleading oxycontin advertisement. Bexar County (San Antonio) is taking on Purdue and 20 other Big Pharma Co’s not only for deceptive practises and more interestingly, under the CSAct of Texas. The DA’s office of Bexar County recently decriminalized marijuana under 4oz of possession.

      How can cases like these not involve the DEA in mutual culpability? It’s been a year since WAPO broke the connection between the Sacklers, who own Purdue, and the purchase of the DEA’s best lawyers. Then came the connection between Purdue and the law that made it easier to distribute oxycontin without prosecution by the DEA. The Sacklers became billionaires while Americans increasingly overdose on opioids every minute. Finally, we saw Insys Therapuetics get sued by Illinois for kickbacks to doctors for overprescribing fentanyl, right about when they bought synthetic marijuana patents and dumped half a mil to stop legalization in Arizona.

      Reparations for corporate opioid overprescription must include legalizing marijuana.

    3. Julian says:


      A SCOTUS decision Monday to legalize sports gambling reinforces states rights shooting down the anti commandeering doctrine, a federal push over states rights filed by Chris Christie. This reinforces that states with legal marijuana will not be prosecuted by the federal government with any success.

      But as I write, NPR is reporting on the low price of legal marijuana in Washington states due to bad regs and illegal grows. The DEA refuses to pick up the case.
      The black market and the opioid crisis will thrive until marijuana is legalized federally and across the board.

      Click on the ACT tab and contact your Congressman today.

    4. James Crow says:

      Is Republican Matt Gaetz so stupid that he believes he is fooling anyone. Why does the Republican party seem intent in shooting themselves in the foot at every turn. Do they thing we believe this lie, if so they are fools.

    5. Julian says:


      Pete Sessions is getting backed by a PAC from casino magnate, prohibitionist and guy who looks like a fat, mafioso zombie, Sheldon Adelson.


      But marijuana reforming PACs with their own big secret donors are ready to support the Democratic winner of special elections.
      Collin Allred is the likely contender for Democratic special elections. He has openly supported medical marijuana legalization. Whether he or Salerno win, Pete Sessions is only able to lose 1,200 votes in this Dallas district. Pete Sessions is the single worst prohibitionist in Congress, blocking every reform bill thus far, and is currently reviewing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s Hemp amendment to the Farm Bill.

      • Julian says:

        My God: NPR just reported that American farmers currently have the highest suicide rate of any occupation; even more than veterans!

        Farmers were some of Trump’s biggest supporters. But his threatening tarrifs on China backlashed into tarrifs on American soy, beef and corn.

        What NPR doesn’t report is that Trump’s secratary of Agriculture has been a disaster… giving power to big agribusiness like Bayer-Monsantos to determine policy, pushing small farmers over the brink. The cost if petrol based fertilizers from Koch Industries or dicamba pesticides, which kill all crops around soy and cotton fields in collateral damage, is not worth the subsidies for the generically patented and engineered crops that require more soil and water than we have available.

        If Pete Sessions kills this hemp amendment the GOP will officially lose their conservative title to hemp legalizing Democrats. The rural farmers that prop up the GOP will find that Blue is the new conservative, and only voting for Democrats will guarantee that legalized hemp and marijuana will save small farmers in a changing climate and economy.

        • Julian says:


          Well, that was predictable. House Rules Chair and Spiderman villain on opioids Pete Sessions, R-TX, just killed all three hemp amendments on a party-line vote.
          Allred or Salerno, whichever Democrat wins the special election in stinky Pete’s district; you just became the conservative candidate. Please save our economy and our farmers from the greedy bureaucrats in the Republican party.

          • Julian says:

            Then Stinky Pete throws out more blame game and bait and switch by suggesting there’s an “agreement” with Mitch McConnell over the hemp bill. This is to suggest that the Senate will pass the hemp bill, which it may:


            With 4 Republican cosigners they can get enough votes to bypass Chuck Grassley in the Judicial Committee.

            But then even though the House has no hemp bill there might be a chance for the hemp bill in the bicameral conference committee.

            What’s alarming is when prohibitionist Pete Sessions says there’s “an agreement” with Mitch. What agreement? Sure that’s a way to make it look to voters, especially Republicans running for reelection like Turtle-head Mitch, even if they “fail” to pass a bill, (in other words, made-to-fail). Republicans are so full of bait and switch I wouldn’t be surprised to see Pete Sessions or Chuck Grassley on the bicameral conference committee.

            But what’s really messed up is the DEA and Jeff Sessions are out there lobbying against small farmers interests to legalize hemp just to save the easy tax money from programs like the Hemp Eradication Program… and the people voting these Republican bureaucratic sychophants into power are getting the life choked out of them.

            Conserve the farm;
            Conserve water;
            Conserve soil;
            Vote Hemp.
            Vote Democratic.

            • mexweed says:

              “Whosoever would posture before you as a Conservative, ask first what they propose to Conserve.”

    6. Keith Chase says:

      I’ve seen other DEA heads testify in the past and this is nothing new. The incompetence of the DEA has existed for years. They bust people with pot instead of going after meth houses,the big pussies. I say disband the DEA fold ongoing investigations into the FBI and let’s finally scrape the shit off of our shoe and disband the DEA forever!!!

    7. Joel: the other Joel says:

      The former President Nixon’s revenge on the Viet Nam anti-war protestor and the cold war it has caused within our society for so many decades is now getting closer to an end.

    8. TheOracle says:

      DEA touts the mission line. Too bad they weren’t hooked up to a lie detector while testifying so we all can gauge if they were testilying.


      Pennsylvania’s MMJ research approval looks like they’re concentrated in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia with one place in Hershey somewhere in between.


    9. TheOracle says:

      Not nearly enough research is being done. Pot has POTential for remedies and hopefully cures! How about some basic research being done in other cities? You could have doctors at the hospitals there doing cutting edge research if you’re willing to stick the money into it. Dr. Kurek snippet:

      “I think we know now 480 molecules. I describe cannabis as bag with different active compounds.”


      And does BilldeB mean they’re finally going to pave the way for cannabis coffeeshops a la Amsterdam? $ kaching $ BilldeB — Bilderberger LOL


      Andrew Cuomo has indicated he is now in favor of legalizing adult recreational. I want to see drafts of NYC’s version of the gedoogbeleid and the kind of horeca vergunningen and what kind of BIBOB you guys are gonna require. Sorry, no time to explain the Amsterdam terminology. The policy of cannabis arrests being nonprosecutable is the beginning of your gedoogbeleid. These laws are still technically on the books. Your permit to run a shop goes across the chief of police’s desk and the mayor or someone tasked by the mayor for applicants who have passed the background check is your version of the vergunning. The background check is your BIBOB.

      NYC, you can do this!


    10. TheOracle says:

      Don’t bog the researchers down with seeing patients all the time. Some of them should be just doing basic research and not be treating patients until they have something they want to test and run a clinical trial on.

      • Julian says:

        True on a legal and scientific process at the lab level, Oracle. I would really love to see more mj legislation pushing for quality lab testing and open source patenting.
        But the wonderful thing about weed is that we get to try different strains and be our own lab trial studies… without all the horrific side effects of pharmaceuticals.

        What I find fascinating about our current marijuana law is that due to federal prohibition doctors have been forced to “recommend,” in order to keep from getting prosecuted. But the truth is whether we are dealing with research or treatment (which are entwined at the root) we find whole plant marijuana defies patent and prescription, leading us to recommend strain sampling for a variety of ailments, spiritual, physical, emotional or mental, as whole plant medicine was naturally cultivated to do. It’s no wonder that the prescribed owners of pharmaceutical patents are fighting marijuana legalization, with Kevin Sabet recently tweeting that Project SAM… get this… is “the resistance.” Legal, fairly taxed whole plant marijuana markets are even treatment for our entire saprophytic, synthetic patenting system.

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