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Illegally Alive: Could Cannabis be the Dream Drug Republicans Need to Combat America’s Opiate Epidemic?

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This week, the House passed a whole package of bills aimed at fighting America’s opioid epidemic, but there is no consensus on what will replace painkillers and help rehabilitate addicts. It’s a crippling issue for the country, with overdoses becoming the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S. and 47,055 lethal drug overdoses in 2014 alone. About 19-thousand of those deaths were specifically related to prescription pain relievers – and it’s only getting worse. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that deaths from prescription opioids—drugs like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone—have quadrupled since 1999.

One of the bills that passed in the House of Representatives belongs to Representative Tom Martin (R-PA). A Donald Trump supporter, Rep. Marino represents what could be a sea change in Republican’s views on drugs. During last week’s National Cannabis Industry Association Lobby Days, one group of lobbyists for cannabis banking and tax reform was given a few minutes to speak with a staffer from his office – outside, in the hallway. It’s a telling sign, how a lower-level staffer from his office agreed to hear the lobbyists arguments but wouldn’t take them inside the empty-looking office.

“I was incredibly proud to sit next to [Republican Speaker Paul Ryan] as he signed my legislation to help combat the flow of illegal substances across our border. Just yesterday, President Obama signed this bill into law. This is an important first step in fighting the drug epidemic in our country. #opioidepidemic #heroinepidemic #drugtraffickingCongress is waking up to reality when it comes to dangerous opioids.”

From the Nixon and Reagan years of the War on Drugs and “Just say no”, the attention to the opioid epidemic in America are grabbing Republican’s attention. Recent attention to the issue is sparking a much-needed conversation among lawmakers and the mainstream news media. For example, CNN recently put on a town hall on #prescriptionaddiction, and TMZ wrote a story on how the death of music icon, Prince, is triggering opiate prescription reform.

The Marijuana Times is also interested in finding a solution to America’s painkiller problem, and what better than cannabis? Cannabis is non-lethal and often considered an alternative to prescription painkillers where legally available. Currently, only 24 states and the District of Columbia have medical marijuana programs, which leaves almost half of Americans without. The #IllegallyAlive movement represents those who are forced to go to the black market for their cannabis, if they get the medicine at all. You can visit IllegallyAlive.org for more information and stories from opiate survivors.

RELATED STORY: Killer Pills: Illegally Alive Showcases How Cannabis Could Fix America’s Opiate Epidemic

On the horizon, states like Rep. Tom Marino’s Pennsylvania, have joined the movement with medical marijuana programs. A revealing study published in JAMA shows that from 1999-2010, MMJ states saw a 24.8% lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states that do not have medical cannabis laws. As the study notes, now we just need some data regarding the further investigation needed to see how medical cannabis laws may interact with policies aimed at preventing opioid analgesic overdose.