By Dalton Rosario
413 Marylanders died in 2017 due to prescription opioid related overdoses from the likes of Methadone, Oxycodone and Tramadol. This number only grows ten-fold after including the 1,078 Heroin related deaths and 1,594 Fentanyl (opioid analgesic) related deaths in 2017 accounting for 2,009 opioid related deaths in Maryland last year alone. The sheer numbers are staggering. This is our community and the families affected by this tragedy cannot go understated. The weight of this problem is ours to share and so is the responsibility to take action.
There is a clear correlation between the abusive behavior from overdosing coupled with the ease of access for obtaining prescription opioids and pain-relieving benzodiazepines. The latest statistics published by the Maryland Department of Health (bha.health.maryland.gov) present the following: 88% of all intoxication deaths that occurred in Maryland in 2017 were opioid-related (heroin, prescription opioids and non pharmaceutical fentanyl), which increased 8% between 2016 and 2017 and 70% between 2015 and 2016. Benzodiazepine-related deaths have increased by 16% between 2016 and 2017; and 51% of all benzodiazepine-related deaths in 2017 occurred in combination with fentanyl, 45% in combination with prescription opioids, and 39% in combination with heroin.
Despite sound evidence and valiant attempts on part of the DC Marijuana Justice (DCMJ) organization and Maryland Marijuana Justice (MDMJ) organization to evoke reformation through state legislation, a cold shoulder remains unwavering towards medicinal cannabis replacing prescription opioid referrals. A seeming conflict of interest arises in the fact that Congressman Andy Harris (R-MD 1st District) has monetary ties with pharmaceutical companies, having received over $200,000 from health professionals, making Harris “one of the top recipients of pharmaceutical funding in congress” according to the MDMJ.
If there is a legislative stalemate, what we need is compromise. A healthy mediation resulting in physicians lawfully relaying the benefits and side effects of prescription opioids and medicinal cannabis as to allow patients the right to decide for themselves what is best for their wellness. This is a necessary step towards providing an extensive body of research that quantitatively validates the medicinal benefits of cannabis. A pivotal prerequisite for declassifying cannabis as a Schedule 1 Drug recognized by federal law as eliciting no medical benefit along the lines of Heroine and Cocaine.