A recently released position paper from the Global Commission on Drug Policy has urged for the legalising of medical marijuana as part of a strategy for dealing with the USA’s opioid crisis.
“Over half a dozen studies now suggest that medical marijuana can substitute for some opioid use, both as a treatment for pain and as a safer alternative for people with addiction,” states the paper.
One of the members of the Commission is entrepreneur and founder of the Virgin Group, Richard Branson.
“The United States needs to overcome its widespread suspicion towards harm reduction and treatment, reverse misguided policies and openly embrace these life-saving measures,” said Mr. Branson in a recent blog post. “It is also striking that in states that allow regulated use of medical marijuana, overdose death rates are lower.”
Approximately 64,000 people died from drug overdoses in the United States in 2016 and the vast majority of these deaths involved an opioid drug.
Among the Commission’s other recommendations:
- Not cutting the supply of prescription opioids to dependent patients without first putting supporting measures in place.
- Make proven harm reduction measures and treatment widely available (including medical marijuana).
- Properly implement well-designed regulation, including guidelines and training on prescription of opioids, and regular monitoring.
- “De facto” decriminalizing of drug use and possession for personal use.
- More research in a number of areas related to abuse and addiction.
The Commission’s position paper on the opioid crisis in North America can be viewed here (PDF).
It’s not the first time Richard Branson has spoken in favour of medical cannabis and the related industry and has railed against what he believes has been an ineffective war on drugs. Earlier this year, he advised that New Zealand’s government should “legalise it, grow it, tax it, regulate it“.
In a keynote address delivered last year at the New West Summit, Mr. Branson reportedly gave this piece of advice to industry pioneers fighting for legalization: “My main motto in life is, ‘screw it, just do it.’”