American political leaders around the country are casting about for a policy response to the widespread abuse of opioid painkillers that doesn’t replicate the mistakes of past punitive approaches to drug use.
Now, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has thrown her clout into that push for solutions – and in a way that underscores the injustices of the War on Drugs over the past several decades.
Warren is asking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to research how medical and recreational marijuana might help alleviate the opioid epidemic. In a letter sent Monday to CDC head Dr. Thomas Friedan, Warren urged the agency to finalize its guidance to physicians on the dos and don’ts of prescribing oxycodone, fentanyl, and other popular drugs in this category.
But she also went further, asking Friedan “to explore every opportunity and tool available to work with states and other federal agencies on ways to tackle the opioid epidemic and collect information about alternative pain relief options.” Those alternatives should include pot, Warren wrote. She went on the ask Friedan to collaborate with other federal health agencies to investigate how medical marijuana is or isn’t working to reduce reliance on highly addictive prescription pills, and to research “the impact of the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana on opioid overdose deaths.”