Article by Keegan Hamilton, Vice
David Bradford couldn’t help but wince when he heard it.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was responding to a question about President Donald Trump’s position on marijuana legalization last Thursday. After expressing support for medical marijuana in general terms, Spicer suggested that recreational weed use is somehow linked to the opioid crisis.
“When you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country,” Spicer said, “the last thing that we should be doing is encouraging people.”
Bradford, a health economist at the University of Georgia, has conducted research that demonstrates the exact opposite of what Spicer was getting at. Working with his daughter, a master’s student at his school, Bradford analyzed data on the prescribing habits of doctors and found that states saw significant declines in the number of pain medication prescriptions after passing medical marijuana laws.
“That was very discouraging,” Bradford said of Spicer’s remarks. “Our work, and indeed other people’s work, strongly suggests that, at least on the medical side of things, when you give people access to cannabis, you divert them from opioids and actually help the opioid crisis.”
Bradford wasn’t the only one troubled by the White House’s first public statement about pot policy. Several other researchers who have studied the relationship between medical marijuana and the opioid epidemic said Spicer is dead wrong if he thinks the skyrocketing rate of fatal overdoses in the U.S. is linked to legal weed. In fact, there’s strong evidence that indicates marijuana legalization actually reduces opioid-linked deaths.