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Senators Press Witnesses About Usefulness of Medical Cannabis
CONTACT: David Mangone, [email protected], 202-618-6975
WASHINGTON, DC – On February 12, The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee held a hearing entitled “Managing Pain During the Opioid Crisis.” Witnesses included Dr. Andrew Coop, PhD from the Maryland School of Pharmacy, Cindy Steinberg, the U.S. Pain Foundation’s National Director of Policy and Advocacy, Dr. Halena Gazelka, MD of the Mayo Clinic, and Dr. Anuradha Rao-Patel, MD of Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina.
When questioned about viable alternatives to opioids, Dr. Andrew Coop commented “We need to look at the further potential of cannabinoids” and later clarified upon questioning from Senator Alexander (R-TN) that “medical marijuana has great potential.” Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV) questioned Dr. Coop about medical cannabis and the roadblocks that researchers face in conducting studies. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) indicated he also wanted ask about medical cannabis research but ran out of time before the witnesses could answer his questions. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) asked each witness about their thoughts on the use of medical cannabis and again highlighted barriers to research.
“Cannabis has helped a significant amount of people. It is another tool in the toolbox. However, it is not legal everywhere” said Cheryl Steinberg of U.S. Pain Foundation. Each of the medical providers indicated that they had at least some patients who used or benefited from medical cannabis.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the United States, opioid overdose deaths claimed more than 130 lives every day in 2018. However, research continues to show that states with medical cannabis programs have a significantly lower rate of opioid overdose deaths than states with cannabis programs.
“It was great to see witnesses and Senators alike discuss the potential of medical cannabis as a tool in combating the opioid crisis. Since launching our ‘End Pain, Not Lives’ campaign with the U.S. Pain Foundation in 2017, pain patients have made it clear to us that cannabis can help them reduce their overall opioid intake or stop opioid therapies altogether” said David Mangone, Director of Government Affairs for Americans for Safe Access. “While it is encouraging to see Congress have hearings where medical cannabis is mentioned in a positive light, we need real action from our lawmakers to change federal laws.”
In 2017, Americans for Safe Access partnered with the U.S. Pain Foundation to launch the End Pain, Not Lives campaign to address the root of the opioid epidemic in the United States. The goals of the campaign include removing barriers to safe and legal access to cannabis for people living with pain or suffering from opioid use disorder. The campaign also focuses on educating medical professionals, legislators, service providers, and patients about medical cannabis as a safer alternative for pain management.
With over 100,000 active members in all 50 states, Americans for Safe Access is the largest national organization of patients, medical cannabis providers, medical professionals, scientists, and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research. Americans for Safe Access submitted questions and resources regarding cannabis and the opioid crisis to members of the Senate HELP Committee in preparation for this hearing.
Video of the hearing is available here.