Following the release of the White House opioid report, Americans for Safe Access has asked for information about what was discussed about medical cannabis.

ASA’s two requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), filed November 9, seek disclosure of how the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis draft final report came to include only a single cannabis study. That study only used survey data obtained before medical cannabis programs were operating in the United States. The commission’s report omits all the available clinical research data on the safety and effectiveness of cannabis for treating chronic pain.

The FOIA requests were sent to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and the National Institute of Drug Abuse.

“The President’s Opioid Commission presented grossly misleading information in its final report, excluding proven strategies such as medical cannabis that can reduce opioid deaths,” said Steph Sherer, ASA Executive Director.  “They did not use the best available science. Americans concerned about opioid addiction need to know why the Commission used one marginal study to dismiss cannabis as a therapeutic alternative.”

The Commission was formed just months after the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released “The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research (2017),” which compiled research from over 10,000 studies on cannabis and its components. The report found that “in adults with chronic pain, patients who were treated with cannabis or cannabinoids are more likely to experience a clinically significant reduction in pain symptoms” and “there is substantial evidence that cannabis is an effective treatment for chronic pain in adults.”

In the introductory letter to the report, Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ), the chair of the committee, writes:

“The Commission acknowledges that there is an active movement to promote the use of marijuana as an alternative medication for chronic pain and as a treatment for opioid addiction. Recent research out of the NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse found that marijuana use led to a 2-1⁄2 times greater chance that the marijuana user would become an opioid user and abuser. The Commission found this very disturbing.”

Thirty states in the US have passed medical cannabis laws and another 16 have passed more limited laws around Cannabidiol (CBD). Researchshows that opioid deaths decreased in states that adopted medical cannabis laws by an average of 25%.  A separate NIH study found that medical cannabis legalization was associated with a 23% reduction in hospitalizations related to opioid dependence or abuse and a 13% reduction in opioid pain relief overdose.

Those findings reflect the degree to which patients who rely on opioid drugs for pain relief are able to substitute medical cannabis.  Researchersfrom the University of California, Berkeley and Kent State University found in a study of 2,897 pain patients that “97 percent of the sample ‘strongly agreed/agreed’ that they are able to decrease the amount of opioids they consume when they also use cannabis.”

“We want to know why and how the peculiar study Gov. Christie cited came about,” said Sherer. “The timing is curious, as NIDA appears to have rushed it out in order to give the Commission a reason to ignore the compelling scientific evidence and the thousands of inquiries the Commission received during the public comment period about using medical cannabis to help with the crisis.”

NIH and ONDCP have 20 Federal business days to deliver, ask for an extension, or deny the requested documents to Americans for Safe Access.

More Information:
FOIA Requests to NIDA and ONDCP
Opioid Commission Report
ASA Report: Medical Cannabis Access for Pain Treatment