Boehner Joining Crusade To Legalize Marijuana is a BFD

Since before Trump’s poorly-attended inauguration, it was a monumental task to envision or find much good about the prospects for America in the foreseeable future. It is true there has been a dearth of good news over the past year-and-a-half, but with a little exploration, one did discover an incredibly encouraging bit of news. And believe it or not, it involves a well-known Republican many liberals have despised for years, former Speaker of the House John Boehner.

In what is being rightly labeled “a watershed event,” Acreage Holdings proudly announced that the former House Speaker has joined the organization’s advisory board and will be a significant spokesman for the United States of America’s legal marijuana industry. That’s right, Republican John A. Boehner who just nine years ago claimed “he was unalterably opposed” to cannabis legalization will be a spokesperson and serve in an advisory capacity to a “major company that cultivates, processes and dispenses cannabis in 11 U.S. states.”

Look, whether or not one uses the weed for its medicinal or entertainment value, this is, as Vice President Joe Biden once said, “a really BFD.” Over at Bloomberg, Jennifer Kaplan noted that with Boehner and former Massachusetts Governor William Weld (R) joining Acreage Holdings, “marijuana has gone mainstream.”

No doubt a sworn enemy of cannabis, Attorney General J. Beauregard Sessions suffered a minor shit fit at the announcement that two Republicans, one formerly third in line to the presidency of the United States, will be promoting a weed Sessions claims has no medical value, and that only “bad people” use it.

First, it is noteworthy that Messrs. Boehner and Weld claim to have never used marijuana and have no intention of starting. It is not uncommon for legalization advocates to have never used reefer for recreation or medicine.

Indeed, world renowned travel celebrity and author Rick Steves is an important and highly visible board member of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and he does not use weed. His advocacy for legalization, like one of the reasons John Boehner gave for joining the decriminalization crusade, is the abominable practice of imprisoning non-violent Americans convicted of either possessing, cultivating, using or dispensing cannabis. The point is that one does not have to use the weed to understand the absurdity of criminalizing a “medicine” that grandma and grandpa can grow in the backyard, or on their retirement home balcony.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Mr. Boehner explained why he is joining the Acreage Holdings advisory board and advocating for the weed’s decriminalization; and no, it is not because he has any pecuniary interest in the company. He said:

“Over the last 10 or 15 years, the American people’s attitudes have changed dramatically. I find myself in that same position. When you look at the number of people in our state and federal penitentiaries, who are there for possession of small amounts of cannabis, you begin to really scratch your head. We have literally filled up our jails with people who are nonviolent and frankly do not belong there.”

Boehner went on to explain that, like many Americans, his opinion of the weed shifted dramatically “after he saw the plant’s efficacy in helping a close friend deal with debilitating back pain.” He also said that besides studying the U.S. criminal justice system’s problems for years, the weed’s potential for treating the nation’s Veterans played a big part in helping to sway him.

Former Massachusetts governor Weld did not require any “swaying” because he has been an advocate for decriminalization since 1992 and supported the 2016 referendum that legalized recreational pot use in his home state. Weld also said that his “belief in the functionality of the plant has grown” since 1992; particularly with the weed’s use for “easing the opioid crisis.” He said, referring to marijuana’s success at treating opioid addiction:

“Cannabis could be perceived as an exit drug, not a gateway drug.”

Weld and Boehner both claim the core issue is a 10th Amendment matter; an argument that should satisfy even the most ardent Republican opposed to legalization. Mr. Weld said that, “If some states don’t want marijuana to be legal, that’s their prerogative. But that shouldn’t be dictated by the nanny state in Washington.”

Currently, it is Beauregard Sessions who is “dictating” to the states that cannabis is only used by “bad people” and that it has no medicinal value whatsoever. This is, in fact, after he was pilloried in the House by Republicans and Democrats alike for his “harsh” position on weed, and after he was presented with documented research demonstrating the plant’s medicinal value.

Regarding Sessions’ tough stance on marijuana, Boehner said Sessions’ harsh words for the weed, and his decision to roll back President Obama’s protections for states didn’t deter him or Mr. Weld from deciding to get on board with an industry set to record a healthy $75 billion within ten years and outpace the soda industry. Mr. Boehner said:

“When I saw the [Sessions] announcement, I almost chuckled to myself. I don’t know why they decided to do this. It could be that the attorney general is trying to force the Congress to act.”

No, Sessions is clear about his motive, and he is determined to keep marijuana listed as a Schedule 1 substance with heroin and much worse than cocaine. Remember, Sessions hates marijuana more than he loves being a racist which is why he complained about a group he really admired, the Ku Klux Klan because some of the white supremacists used marijuana.

NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri issued a statement regarding Mr. Boehner as an advocate for decriminalization saying in part:

“Former Speaker Boehner is still held in high regard by a large percentage of the GOP membership and voter base. We look forward to his voice joining the growing chorus calling for an end to cannabis criminalization. Anything that expedites the ability for patients to access this safe and reliable treatment alternative, and that facilitates an end to the practice of arresting otherwise law abiding citizens for the possession of a plant should be welcomed with open arms.”

It is almost certain that most Americans who support decriminalizing cannabis, roughly 64 percent of Republicans and Democrats alike, are going to welcome both Mr. Boehner and Mr. Weld to the crusade to stop the absurdity of weed as either illegal or listed as a dangerous drug on par with heroin. What is amazing is that John Boehner is a dyed-in-the-wool conservative and has characteristically been resistant to change; that he evolved from being “unalterably opposed” to decriminalizing marijuana in less than nine years is remarkable. That the man is now an advocate for legalizing the weed is mindboggling, and “highly” encouraging for a majority of Americans.

Death penalty for drug dealers when there is one for gun dealers

Throughout history religion and tyrannical dictators have experimented with various means of controlling human nature with varying degrees of failure. There are universal truths regarding the way humanity has behaved down through the ages which is why that behavior is attributed to “human nature,” and it is why even the most strident religion is incapable of reversing or retarding human behavior. There are just some actions, especially those borne of emotions, that are impossible to regulate no matter the deterrent or reward system to promote what society regards as acceptable behavior.

Although it is inherently evil for one group, or one individual, to attempt to control anyone, there is no doubt that civilized societies need some kind of deterrent or reward system to contain dangerous human behavior to protect people. Human traits like greed, religious passion, and unrestrained anger are the underpinning of all manner of “crimes against society” making punitive measures a necessary element of any cultural construct. As antiquity has shown, despite severe punishment for many bad behaviors, human nature can never be completely controlled or deterred. If that were the case there would be no crime and the entirety of humankind would serve the most severe religion under pain of “holygruesome methods of execution.

In another instance of the Trump administration enacting policies that are historical failures, the Reagan-era “just say no” drug policy is being value-added with a call to “just kill drug dealers.” The death penalty for dealing drugs is allegedly Trump and Sessions’ primary tool of choice to address the legal prescription drug (opioid) epidemic.

That “just kill them” plan typifies stupid and blood-lust, and it is likely a result of Trump’s adoration of Philippines’ murderous president Rodrigo Duterte. Duterte is notorious for his boasts of personally committing extra-judicial executions for suspected drug dealers. Those boasts excited and incited Trump to tell Duterte what a great job he’s doing by killing citizens he suspects of dealing or using drugs. Still, despite the thousands of executions, drug users and dealers are thriving in the Philippines.

It is not clear on what official grounds Sessions and Trump are basing their decision to execute drug dealers, but if it is as a deterrent, it  has shown to be a monumental failure around the globe and domestically. In some extremely harsh nations the death penalty has not stopped the use or trade of ‘illicit’ drugs, so expecting it to stop the use and trade of legal prescription drugs is folly. Let’s get one thing clear right now; the death penalty is not going to do anything to address a public health issue like the  “opioid epidemic;” the stated reason Sessions and Trump want the death penalty. For dog’s sake, many American states have the death penalty for homicide and execute convicts regularly, and yet those states still have homicides like states lacking capital punishment.

The threat of death is not going to change human nature whether it is a greedy off-the-books gun dealer selling legal battlefield weapons, a desperate addict, or greedy drug dealer selling legal prescription pain killers like opioids. There is another inconvenient truth that neither Sessions nor Trump comprehend; drug dealing in America is not a capital crime at the federal or state level. Of the 41 federal laws calling for the death penalty, only two have a direct connection to drugs and both require the commission of murder to earn the death penalty.

One is under 18 U.S. Code § 924 calling for the death penalty for “Murder committed by the use of a firearm during a crime of violence or a drug-trafficking crime.” And 18 U.S. Code § 36 includes capital punishment for “Murder committed during a drug-related drive-by shooting.” (author bold)

In both “drug-related” cases a murder has to have been committed in order to qualify for the death penalty. And that little fact is noteworthy because the Supreme Court has ruled that “the death penalty is unconstitutional for crimes against individuals in which no one is killed.” That opinion put to rest a 1994 “drug kingpin” idea calling for the death penalty for crime bosses connected to criminal enterprises dealing in large quantities of illicit drugs, even if no-one was killed.

Sessions announcing the death penalty for drug dealers as an means of dealing with what experts say is a bonafide public-health issue, besides not fixing the problem; “is proven unwise, costly, ineffective and often counterproductive.” Experts and half-sane human beings comprehend that it also does nothing to address the real problem plaguing America; the epidemic of legal prescription drug addiction. As the co-director of the Opioid Policy Research Collaborative at Brandeis University, Dr. Andrew Kolodny said:

We can’t execute our way out of this epidemic. The reality is, most people who are selling drugs are suffering from opioid addiction, and they sell drugs to support their own habit.”

Dr. Guohua Li is professor of epidemiology and anesthesiology at Columbia University and he concurred with Dr. Kolodny:

When I start hearing about the death penalty, it just seems to me we’re going in the wrong direction.

Criminal justice can play a complementary role in addressing the opioid crisis, but relying on criminal justice system to address public health problems has proven unwise, costly, ineffective and often counterproductive.”

A recent Pew Charitable Trust study released just two weeks ago supports both experts’ arguments; and it reveals that harsher penalties for drug dealers or addicts will not fix the problem. The study revealed that:

Harsher penal sanctions had no measurable impact on drug use, drug overdose deaths, and drug arrests. The data reinforce a large body of prior research that cast doubt on the theory that stiffer prison terms deter drug misuse, distribution, and other drug-law violations. The evidence strongly suggests that policymakers should pursue alternative strategies that research shows work better and cost less.”

If Sessions and Trump need to see some capital punishment to try addressing Americans dying unnecessarily, they should call for the death penalty for gun dealers. Particularly those “off-the-book” types who sell assault weapons that exist for one reason and one reason only; to assault and kill human beings.  AR15s and AK47s were not created to assault ducks, pheasant, rabbits, deer, baby seals, bear cubs or any other alleged game animal; they exist to assault and kill human beings. But no-one is suggesting the death penalty for gun dealers because they are selling as legal a product as any dealer or addict selling FDA-approved prescription drugs containing opioids. Opioids, by the way, that have been studied and developed to serve a useful medical purpose; relieving pain and suffering.

The idea of executing people over a public health issue like an epidemic is barbaric, but so is Trump and his Old Testament, mean-god acolyte Jeff Sessions. However, barbaric or not, it is a fairly good sign that there will be no legitimate policies enacted to address an epidemic the medical profession and big pharmaceutical companies are culpable of creating and perpetuating.

Remember, whether Sessions or Trump admit or like it or not, addiction is a human medical affliction that is not going to be deterred with the threat of death any more than capital punishment deters the greed driving “big” drug dealers; or the administration traitors adhering to a hostile foreign power undermining America’s democracy. Treason, by the way, is one of the 41 federal capital crimes that DOES NOT require an unwarranted death (murder) to impose the death penalty.

Trump was enamored with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s boasts that he personally “executed” people “suspected” of being involved with drugs and he wants to show Duterte that he too is a tough guy. Something Trump and Sessions may not be aware of is that there are 33 foreign nations with the death penalty for trafficking (smuggling) illicit drugs, but “very, very few” actually impose the penalty because it is ineffective. And it is noteworthy that each one of those 33 foreign nations all have one thing in common, even the very, very few that are actually killing drug dealers and users; they still have plenty of people selling, smuggling and using “illicit drugs.”

No matter how harsh laws are, they will never alter human nature and the people selling legal prescription drugs to sate their greed or an addiction are behaving like humans. Threatening to kill the people selling drugs is not going to solve “a medical condition or an addiction epidemic,” it just won’t now or ever.

It is now more apparent than ever that Trump or Sessions have no will or intent to solve a legitimate public health issue, but if they really want to kill purveyors of death and destruction, they can call for the death penalty for gun dealers.

Trump Isn’t Serious About Opioids If He Won’t Legalize Marijuana

Trump’s dog and pony show declaration that the opioid epidemic is a public health emergency worthy of the government’s full resolve, is nothing short of laughable. It’s laughable because Trump is all talk or he would have demanded that Congress appropriate whatever funding necessary to tackle the problem.

It is unfortunate that Trump and his attorney general are so religiously opposed to an existing means of significantly reducing opioid deaths, opioid hospitalizations, opioid use, and fewer opioid-related drug treatment admissions. The good news is that although legalized cannabis will not “cure” or “solve” the opioid epidemic on its own, it will not cost the government a stinking penny and there are reams of data and current empirical evidence proving that legal weed is doing more to stem the opioid crisis than just making a White House announcement. To make matters that much worse, Trump’s attorney general is threatening to “crack down” on cannabis legalization whether it is for medicinal or recreational use.

According to data published in 2014 in JAMA Internal Medicine, “changes in the legal status of cannabis is closely associated with significant reductions in opioid related mortality.” The data show that no matter which state, medical cannabis regulation has contributed to “year-over-year” declines in overall opioid-related deaths; it also is responsible for a decline in heroin overdose fatalities.

In what are called “medicalization states,” the data show that within one year opioid deaths decreased by 20 percent compared to “non-medicalized” states; by the sixth year deaths declined by 33 percent. That data agrees with several other studies linking establishment of both medicinal marijuana dispensaries and “adult use retailers” with reductions in opioid fatalities; including a sharp decrease in traffic fatalities involving drivers testing positive for opioids.

In a more recent 2017 study in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, “cannabis medicalization” helped reduce opioid-related hospitalizations.   The study revealed that in states with legal medical marijuana, there was a 23 percent “drop in hospitalizations due to opioid dependence and a 13 percent decline in hospitalizations due to opioid overdose.” According to the study, “medical marijuana policies [are] significantly associated with reduced opioid pain reliever-related hospitalizations.”

According to a just-published research paper by an economics professor at the University of Georgia, the opening of medical cannabis dispensaries is “correlated with an immediate decrease in narcotic-related admissions to drug treatment facilities.” Specifically,  “dispensary openings experience a 20 percentage point decrease in painkiller treatment admissions over the first two years of dispensary operations.” And according to a Castlight Health study published in 2016 following of over one-million subjects, access to medical cannabis was associated with “far lower prevalence of opioid abuse and doctor shopping.”

In what should be considered the best evidence that marijuana legalization, whether for recreation or medicinal use, as an immediate aid in the fight against the opioid crisis, in states where marijuana is legal patients us “far fewer prescription drugs than do those in jurisdictions where cannabis use remains prohibited.” In fact, two recent studies published in the journal Health Affairs reported that, “passing medical cannabis regulation resulted in a significant drop in Medicare and Medicaid-related prescription drug spending.”

In a 2017 study by the University of New Mexico, researchers reported that “state registrants” often greatly reduced and even eliminated prescription drug intake over time as opposed to non-registrants with similar medical conditions who maintained  and had to increase their opioid use.

An Illinois study assessing state-qualified patients concluded that many subject used cannabis “intentionally to taper off prescription medications.” A similar  2017 analysis of Canadian-registered cannabis patients reported that most subjects self-reported substituting marijuana for prescription drugs, particularly opioids. And in a separate review of over 1,500 New England state-qualified patients, researchers reported that  patients typically used medical cannabis as a replacement for opioids. That is noteworthy because unlike opioids, marijuana is not physically addictive.

If Trump was serious about addressing the so-called “opioid epidemic” and serious in saying it warrants the government’s full resolve, he would embrace any means of actually addressing the issue. The issue is not new and in great part the work of the pharmaceutical industry; the same industry waging a war against cannabis legalization, even for medicinal purposes. Let’s face it, the drug companies do not want the issue to go away and they certainly don’t want people having a relatively “free” prophylactic against an addictive drug big pharma is getting rich off of. The idea that grandma can grow a weed in the backyard that prevents her from buying prescription pain killers is not one the pharmaceutical companies will countenance.

Is cannabis a miracle drug? Of course not, there is no such thing. However, it has been used “medicinally” for 10,000 years as a remedy for everything from inflammation to infection to memory loss to nervous disorders to being a stunningly effective cure for some forms of cancer. One of the primary reasons it is still illegal is because anyone with some dirt, a seed, and a little water can grow their own “medicine” depriving big pharma from making money.

It is also noteworthy to mention that because Congress or Trump are not screaming for appropriations to help combat the “epidemic,” likely to save money to pay for tax cuts for the rich, decriminalizing reefer will cost the federal or state governments nothing whatsoever. And as the states that have decriminalized the weed have demonstrated, regulating the sales and dispensation of cannabis is an incredible source of revenue for law enforcement, drug treatment, healthcare and education.

Like reducing opioid deaths, marijuana legalization will not end not the epidemic by any means and to claim it would is wrong. However, the substantial reduction in deaths, addiction, traffic deaths and hospitalizations is very significant and is already doing monumentally more than just making meaningless pronouncements or throwing people in jail.

Marijuana isn’t for everyone, that is a fact. But for at least thirty years the “weed” has been studied extensively and demonstrated to be effective at reducing what Trump claims is a national emergency. Instead of making ineffective pronouncements, Trump and his Republican Congress could easily decriminalize weed nationwide and actually see results within a year according to the empirical data that has been so widely available it is curious the medical community is not screaming for legalization. But apparently like Trump, Sessions and Republicans in Congress, even the medical community is opposed to cutting into the pharmaceutical and private prison industry profits.