Congressman Matt Gaetz Demands Answers from DEA Administrator on Opioid Epidemic, Offers Medical Cannabis as Solution
Washington, D.C. — U.S. Congressman Matt Gaetz (FL-01) issued the following statement today in response to Acting Administrator for the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Robert Patterson’s response during Tuesday’s House Judiciary Committee’s Hearing on “Challenges and Solutions in the Opioid Abuse Crisis.” During the hearing, Rep. Gaetz demanded answers from DEA Administrator Patterson on the growing opioid epidemic in America, as well as offered solutions to the increasing problem, including democratizing patient access to medical cannabis.
“I am shocked and dismayed that the Acting Administrator of the DEA, Robert Patterson, believes that democratizing access to medical cannabis will add to the substance abuse problems facing America.
Researchers worldwide have studied medical cannabis, consistently demonstrating that it is a viable alternative to opioids. States with medical cannabis programs suffer less opioid addiction, fewer opioid-related deaths, and even lower opioid prescribing rates. Patients who treat their chronic pain with medical cannabis take fewer opioids; many are able to cease use of opioids altogether. For patients who remain on prescription opioids, many are able to decrease the quantity and the dosage they require to achieve pain relief.
Studies like these are the reason why I have introduced the Medical Cannabis Research Act of 2018. It is important to promote further research into the curative potential of medical cannabis, so scientists can unlock its full potential. Medical cannabis can help America fight the opioid epidemic — and more research can show us how.
It is disheartening that the Acting Administrator of the DEA was unaware of any of the dozens of studies demonstrating the conclusive benefits of medical cannabis. It is appalling that, despite wide-ranging evidence showing cannabis to be a viable alternative to opioids, Acting Administrator Patterson still believes that medical marijuana to be part of the ‘drug problem,’ rather than a step toward a solution.
While I am glad that Mr. Patterson has said that the DEA supports medical cannabis research, I hope that they will also take time to survey the vast amount of research that has already been performed. If they do, they will realize there is already a preponderance of evidence showing that medical cannabis is a viable step forward in America’s fight against the scourge of opioids,” Rep. Gaetz said.
A clip of the exchange can be found HERE or below. Additionally, background information on the Medical Cannabis Research Act of 2018 can be found below.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON THE MEDICAL CANNABIS RESEARCH ACT
Currently, all federally-approved studies of medical cannabis get their product from one subpar source. It is weak and often moldy, which can cause illness. In addition to being poor quality, federally-grown cannabis is scarce; not enough is grown. This legislation requires the Attorney General to annually assess whether there is an adequate and uninterrupted supply of research-grade cannabis, and to ensure that there are at least three federally approved manufacturers at any given time.
Some federally-funded institutions, such as universities, want to research cannabis, but have been unable to do so; research cannabis threatens their federal funding. This legislation includes much-needed “safe harbor” for researchers and institutions studying cannabis, and for patients in federally-approved medical cannabis clinical trials.
Even though VA doctors/staff are not prohibited from sharing information about federally-approved cannabis clinical trials with patients, many VA offices believe mentioning these trials is illegal. This legislation codifies that healthcare providers at the VA are authorized to provide information about federally-approved cannabis clinical trials, and they are also allowed to fill out forms for veterans to participate in these trials.
Most importantly, this legislation does not interfere with federal laws, state laws, or law enforcement. This bill makes no changes to the legal status of cannabis. It simply unlocks the potential for research into a compound that could prove beneficial to veterans, chronically ill persons, and the elderly.