marijuana

The Obama Administration’s Drug Czar Michael Botticelli chatted it up on Politico’s Pulse Check podcast recently where he discussed the federal government’s approach to drug addiction and rehabilitation, among other topics. But Botticelli did take a moment to discuss marijuana, and specifically the government’s historical role in making it difficult for researchers to study the therapeutic benefits of cannabis.

Speaking with Dan Diamond, the host of Pulse Check, Botticelli was asked about the DEA’s decision in August to maintain cannabis as a Schedule I narcotic. The Drug Czar replied, “Our office does not have a formal role in that,” referring to the decision by the DEA to keep marijuana classified as a Schedule I drug alongside heroin and LSD.

After washing his hands of the DEA’s decision, and denying his office was culpable in keeping marijuana a Schedule I drug, he stated the Obama administration had made it one of their priorities to investigate cannabis’ health benefits.

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However, he then went on to confirm what had long been a conspiracy theory of sorts — that the federal government purposely prevented marijuana from being researched for its therapeutic benefits.

Botticelli confirmed suspicions that the feds have purposefully kept marijuana from being thoroughly researched for positive health benefits when he said, “I do think it’s a somewhat fair criticism that the government hasn’t wholly supported research to really investigate what’s the potential therapeutic value.”

The Drug Czar then claimed the Obama administration and the DEA have done “a number of things to promote good scientific research” and “diminish some of the barriers (to research)” of cannabis, although he did not specify what those things were.

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The brief discussion of marijuana was a part of a larger address Botticelli aimed at opiate addiction and the government’s response to focus more on treatment rather than prosecution. But as The Free Thought Project has recently reported, the DEA’s decision to classify Kratom as a Schedule I narcotic seems to be at odds with Botticelli’s claims the government wants to focus more on treatment for opiate addiction. That’s because Kratom, a natural plant, has been useful in helping heroin and opiate addicts get off the drugs, whether they be street heroin or prescription pills.

And by making the highly unusual move to classify Kratom as a Schedule I drug, just as a bipartisan group of Congressmen stated, the DEA has made the unfortunate decision to further hamper Kratom research which is currently ongoing. Those studies show promise for Kratom’s ability to mitigate opiate withdrawal symptoms. And it’s not just Kratom that researchers are saying helps opiate addicts kick the addictive opiates. Weed appears to do the same.

As the Boston Herald reported in 2015, doctors in Massachusetts are having great success in getting heroin addicts off of their addictive opiates and onto marijuana, a non-addictive substance. According to the Herald, doctors treated “80 patients who were addicted to opioids, muscle relaxers or anti-anxiety medication with cannabis using a one-month tapering program,” and added, “More than 75 percent of those patients stopped taking the harder drugs.”

“What we are seeing is that, in follow-up visits, patients have decreased and even eliminated their opioids,” said Dr. Uma Dhanabalan of Uplifting Health and Wellness in Natick. He said the current approved therapy to use drugs like Methadone to treat opiate addiction is counter-intuitive by saying, “It’s a problem when we are replacing one synthetic opioid with another synthetic opioid because, guess what … synthetic opioids kill, cannabis does not.”

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To recap the DEA’s movements over the last 45 days, they refused to even consider removing marijuana as a Schedule I narcotic, and even added Kratom to their list (official regulation still pending), even though both plants can and are being used to help heroin and opiate addicts get off of their life-threatening drugs. And now the Obama administration’s own Drug Czar, charged with helping to combat the heroin epidemic in the U.S., admits more must be done to research cannabis’ health benefits. By doing so, the DEA’s decision to put Kratom on the banned drug list, and to keep cannabis on the list, makes both more difficult to research, leaving more questions than answers. Go figure.

Something has to give. The DEA has to stop fighting the will of the people, realizing 25 states and D.C. already have successful medical marijuana programs, with more states poised to follow suit this November. And the outgoing administration, along with the successive administrations, must join forces with the DEA to prevent the enforcement agency from criminalizing plants which can help Americans prevent and treat opiate addiction.

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Jack Burns is an educator, journalist, investigative reporter, and advocate of natural medicine