Opioids crisis in Wisconsin can be fixed

JOSEPH CANNING | canni001@raangers.uwp.edu

On February 8th, 2017, the Wisconsin state senate approved a bill in a 31-1 vote that, if passed by the state assembly, would allow for the legal possession of the marijuana extract cannabidiol or CBD in Wisconsin. CBD is a medicinally valuable oil that was singled out for legalization by Wisconsin senate Republicans due to recent evidence that it can be used as a treatment for victims of epilepsy.

Not far enough

The other reason CBD was specifically chosen for legalization was because it lacks the chemical THC that is responsible for producing a high in marijuana users; however, Wisconsin Republicans are misguided in their decision to dismiss the value of psychoactive marijuana to the state’s citizens. Legal—THC containing—medical marijuana is exactly what Wisconsin needs to stem the tragic wave of opioid overdoses that has inflated to result in 10.7 deaths per 100,000 residents in 2015 from the 5.9 per 100,000 in 2006 with no sign of relent.

Two days prior to the CBD bill being passed, Wisconsin state Sen. Jon Erpenbach and state Rep. Chris Taylor, both Democrats, encouraged a state referendum on the legalization of medical marijuana; they cited the legal status of the drug in 28 states and the District of Columbia, while pushing marijuana as a proven, safe alternative drug for the thousands of citizens who end up on opioids each year and too often become dependant on heroin, fentanyl or painkillers.

A better drug

All of the opioids mentioned above are incredibly addictive and easily toxic substances that are readily available. Fentanyl—a drug that gained much infamy after the beloved popstar Prince became one of its victims in early 2016—is perfectly legal in the United States, despite its killer potency. It is a farce that marijuana remains a schedule 1 drug even with being magnitudes safer than opioid drugs.

A 2014 study headed by Marcus A. Buchhuber of the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that deaths by opioid overdose fell by an average of nearly a quarter in states that legalized marijuana for medical use. Furthermore, a 2016 study by the University of Michigan found that patients involved in their study reported that the usage of prescription painkillers dropped by 64 percent after having used marijuana to treat their pain.

Time for action

The evidence accrued over the last few years shows, time and time again, that marijuana is a more than apt substitute for opioid pain medications and a legal alternative to dangerous, illegal opioids such as heroin. If marijuana saved lives in the 28 states where it has been implemented and shown to be an effective replacement, it is time Wisconsin joined its neighbors and legalized marijuana for medical use.

Legal CBD, then, is poised to be a landmark—if only tentative—step towards medical marijuana. Safe pain medication should be a priority for all Wisconsinites, young or old; chances are, if you aren’t taking some sort of opioid pain medication, you know someone who is or was taking one. If you care about alternatives to harmful medication, call or email Wisconsin state legislators and let them know that Wisconsin needs medical marijuana.


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