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As Opioid Crisis Roils, White House Rejects Marijuana Alternative

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WASHINGTON — While a presidential commission on the opioid crisis has called for expanding drug courts and access to alternative painkillers to stem the crisis, it has refused to endorse the use of cannabis.

Despite studies that have found marijuana can save lives as an opoid alternative, the commission, headed by outgoing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, cited a federal anti-drug agency’s findings that marijuana is a “gateway drug” to abuse of an array of painkillers collectively known as opioids.

Citing the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s claim that people are 2.5 times more likely to try opioids after trying weed, Christie said there is a “a lack of sophisticated outcome data on dose, potency, and abuse potential for marijuana,” The Washington Post reported earlier this month.

The commission also rejected the establishment of safe places for people to inject drugs under supervision to reduce overdose deaths.

Instead, the commission’s focus was on the use of drug courts, an alternative system implemented to help substance abusers get treatment rather than suffer the stigma of drug convictions and reduce prison populations.

The drug court system has been faulted for poor oversight and becoming a profit-driven industry in its own right.

Lenny Bernstein writes that Christie’s commission and FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb have endorsed “large expansion of medication-assisted treatment.”

The therapy would grant users access to buprenorphine, methadone and naltrexone so that users would not be addicted to heroin or prescription drugs.

Trump also called for higher penalties for traffickers of street drug fentanyl, which is often made in China, shipped to the United States and then mixed with powdered heroin.

However, activists and Democratic lawmakers criticized Trump for failing to add funding to the treatment of substance-abuse disorders, saying only 10 percent have been treated.

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