Trump Commission Calls for ‘State of Emergency’ Over Opioids


In an interim report release this afternoon, President Trump’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis called on the president to declare a state of emergency over the nation’s opioid addiction and overdose death crisis.

“142 Americans are dying every day of a drug overdose,” said New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, head of the commission. “To say we have a crisis here is an understatement.”

Christie said the opioid death rate was “the equivalent of the death toll on Sept. 11 every three weeks in America.”

Christie and his fellow commission members, including Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, Congressman Patrick Kennedy, and Harvard Medical School professor Bertha Madras, urged the federal government to rapidly increase the nation’s addiction treatment capacity by granting Medicaid waivers to existing treatment facilities.

There was no mention of cannabis in the commission’s interim report, which was released today. A full copy of that report can be found here.

More MAT for Opioid Addiction

The commission also advocated the expansion of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid addiction. MAT involves the use of other FDA-approved drugs to bring an addicted opioid user off the powerful drug. But it can be difficult for many people, especially incarcerated people, to receive MAT because of legal restrictions.

“Multiple studies have shown that individuals receiving MAT during and after incarceration have lower mortality risk, remain in treatment longer, have fewer positive drug screens, and have lower rates of recidivism than other individuals … that do not receive MAT,” commission members wrote in the interim report.

Cannabis has received increasing attention as a component of MAT, but the report made it clear that today’s recommendation covered only FDA-approved medications.

The commission also urged the National Institutes of Health “to work with the pharmaceutical industry to develop more MAT options and non-opioid pain relievers.”

“The nation needs more treatments that are not addictive,”

Christie said.

Medical cannabis is one of the nation’s most well-known non-opioid pain relievers, but it was not mentioned in any way in today’s report. That’s not surprising. Four of the five presidentially appointed members of the commission are adamant cannabis prohibitionists:

  • Chris Christie is famous for the anti-marijuana rants made during his short-lived presidential campaign last year.
  • Gov. Charlie Baker opposed cannabis legalization in his home state of Massachusetts.
  • Rep. Patrick Kennedy is a co-founder of SAM, Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a prohibitionist group formed with Kevin Sabet.
  • Professor Madras wrote a Washington Post op-ed last year that mocked the idea of cannabis as medicine and claimed—despite decades of evidence to the contrary—that “the scarcity of patients willing to enroll” in clinical trials was the main roadblock to cannabis research in America.
  • Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina is the moderate of the group; his only public note on cannabis has been to declare medical marijuana legalization as “something we need to go very slow on.”

The Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis is expected to release its full and final report later this year.

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