A prominent Democratic U.S. senator – and probable presidential candidate for the 2020 race – has slammed pharmaceutical companies for their opposition of marijuana legalization.
Senator Kristen Gillibrand recently appeared on Good Day New York and responded to a question about whether marijuana really is a “gateway drug” leading people to try more dangerous substances, Forbes reports. Gillibrand said, “To them it’s competition for chronic pain, and that’s outrageous because we don’t have the crisis in people who take marijuana for chronic pain having overdose issues… It’s not as highly addictive as opioids are. On the federal level, we really need to say it is a legal drug you can access if you need it.”
Legalization advocates have always presumed that Big Pharma is working behind the scenes to keep marijuana prohibition intact. In 2016, Insys Therapeutics, maker of the opioid-based fentanyl and a synthetic version of THC, donated $500,000 to help defeat a marijuana legalization initiative in Arizona last year.
Gillibrand also stated, “I don’t see [marijuana] as a gateway to opioids. What I see is the opioid industry and the drug companies that manufacture it, some of them in particular, are just trying to sell more drugs that addict patients and addict people across this country.”
Studies have shown that states with medical marijuana programs have reduced opioid overdose rates.
Research published earlier this month indicates that “legally protected and operating medical marijuana dispensaries reduce opioid-related harms,” which suggests that “some individuals may be substituting towards marijuana, reducing the quantity of opioids they consume or forgoing initiation of opiates altogether.”
Journal of Health Economics researchers wrote, “Marijuana is a far less addictive substance than opioids and the potential for overdosing is nearly zero.”
Last week, Gillibrand became the second co-sponsor of a piece of far-reaching Senate legislation to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act entirely and remove federal funding from states that continue racially disproportionate enforcement of marijuana laws.
Gillibrand said, “Millions of Americans’ lives have been devastated because of our broken marijuana policies, especially in communities of color and low-income communities. Legalizing marijuana is a social justice issue and a moral issue that Congress needs to address.”
Gillibrand also sponsors other medical marijuana legislation and recently signed a letter urging new protections for state marijuana laws to be included in federal spending legislation. She said, “I think medical marijuana could be treatment for a lot of folks. A lot of veterans have told us that this is the best treatment for them. I do not see it as a gateway drug.”
Several political observers speculate that Gillibrand may run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020. She, and at least two additional Democratic contenders, have already endorsed national marijuana legalization.
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