According to new preliminary data compiled by The New York Times, the number of drug overdose deaths in the United States exceeded 59,000 and took the largest ever recorded annual jump, up some 19% from 2015 to 2016. According to the Times, “drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under 50.”
Whether from illegal drugs like heroin or legal ones like opioid painkillers, the amount of people dying from drug overdoses has exploded from less than 10,000 a year in the early 1990s to the almost 60,000 it is today.
While heroin and painkillers are well-known culprits in the overdose epidemic, as authorities crack-down in those areas people find other ways to get their fix. For example, the drug Fentanyl – the makers of which fought marijuana legalization in Arizona and recently got clearance for their synthetic THC spray – is popping up in drug seizures and overdose deaths more and more every month.
There is hope however, for those in power that want to see this change. Multiple studies have shown just how effective medical marijuana is when it comes to getting people off of opioid painkillers. But in a state like Ohio that has been hit hard by the overdose epidemic, you see Governor Kasich claim that he doesn’t “see a role” for cannabis to play in helping lessen the number of deaths and relieve stress on emergency rooms across the state.
In fact, what most authorities will see is a need for more prohibition, stricter penalties and less access for those who actually use prescription drugs as they are intended. Few will realize that prohibition hasn’t worked; it certainly hasn’t eradicated use of drugs like heroin.
Although is it very limited in more than a few states, fortunately medical marijuana access is a reality for tens of millions of people across the U.S. They have a choice to use a safer and often more effective substance to alleviate their pain and other ailments. They are not considered criminals simply for taking a path that is much less likely to result in their death.
Choosing between jail and an increased likelihood of death is not what is considered an ideal choice. And yet, that is the choice for millions of people every day. For many others, medical marijuana is legal in their state, just not for the ailments they have.
It is a stark reminder that the war on cannabis users is far from over.