Sen. Cory Booker Wants to Make Marijuana Legal Across U.S.— Could That Curb Opioid Epidemic?

 In Legalization

NBC News / by 

Sen. Cory Booker introduced a wide-reaching bill on Tuesday that would drop the federal prohibition on marijuana and even encourage states to legalize the drug.

In an announcement on Facebook Live, Booker, D-N.J., ran through the reasons why he believes the war on drugs has failed: families torn apart; billions in taxpayer dollars wasted; too many Americans behind bars — especially people of color and the poor.

Legalizing marijuana, he said, would go a long way to solving those national problems.

But there’s another potential side effect to the Marijuana Justice Act — one that Booker says had not been on his mind when he started working on it: Legal pot, according to some researchers and advocates, could help blunt the opioid epidemic.

“I’ve seen a lot of very compelling preliminary data that shows there is a drop in opioid overdoses in areas that have better access to marijuana,” Booker said in a phone interview with NBC News on Tuesday, adding that he looked forward to seeing more research.

The bill comes as the Trump administration, particularly Attorney General Jeff Sessions, vows to get tough on marijuana — a crackdown that Booker said just adds to the “urgency” of his legalization push.

Sessions, a fierce opponent of legal pot, has scoffed at the idea that weed could be used as a weapon against opioid addiction. “Give me a break,” Sessions said during a speech in February, later adding: “Maybe science will prove I’m wrong.”

A recent study found that in states where it is legal to use medical marijuana for chronic pain, hospitals ended up treating far fewer opioid users.

Hospitalization rates for opioid painkiller dependence and abuse fell 23 percent on average in states where pot was allowed for medicinal purposes, according to the study published earlier this year in Drug and Alcohol Dependence. And hospitalization rates for opioid overdoses dropped 13 percent on average, the study found.


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