The United States should legalize weed to break its opioid addiction

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. pauses as he speaks to media at Trump Tower in New York, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

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How out of control is the opioid crisis? The United States currently uses more opioids than any other country, according to a new report from the United Nations.

The U.N. found that America, despite having only 4.8 percent of the world’s population, uses 49.6 percent of the world’s morphine, 29.3 percent of the its fentanyl, 12.8 percent of codeine, 69 percent of oxycodone, and 99 percent of hydrocodone. We’re far and away No.1, and it’s caused addiction and death.

Why does America outpace the world in this statistic? According to Stanford University professor Keith Humphreys, the causes are both economic and cultural. Humphreys says that pharmaceutical companies can aggressively market to American consumers and they have very powerful lobbyists that can block government investigations into their practices.

Also, Americans are more demanding of pain relief than their European counterparts. Here’s Humphreys in the Washington Post:

Consider, for example, a 55-year-old who feels acute back and leg pain after doing the workout that was easy when he was 25. A European in this situation might reflect sadly that aging and physical decay must be accepted as part of life, but an achy American might demand that his doctor fix what he sees as an avoidable problem by prescribing him opioids.

RELATED: Jeff Sessions’ approach to the opioid epidemic is outdated and counterfactual

There is a pain relief method that is much less addictive than opiates: marijuana. In January of this year, researchers at the Oregon Health & Science University discovered that drugs using the medicinal properties of cannabis can be used to treat chronic pain with less of a risk of addiction. In November of last year, researchers at Indiana University and San Diego-based Abide Therapeutics in separate experiments presented evidence that marijuana-based drugs could relieve chronic pain without producing a high.

Studies also show that marijuana can be an important part of combating opioid addiction. In September of last year, the American Journal of Public Health found that fewer people use opioids in states with legal medical marijuana.

The Drug Enforcement Agency could with the stroke of a pen end the war on legal medical marijuana by rescheduling it from a Schedule 1 drug, which says there is no medicinal use, to a lower schedule that would allow for medicinal use. But that seems unlikely in the Donald Trump era. If anything, they’re gearing up to enforce even more strict federal marijuana prohibition.

RELATED: If Trump wants to keep Mexican drugs out of the country, he should try ending the drug war

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has previously declared that “good people don’t use marijuana,” also said this to Newsweek about marijuana’s potential use to reduce the opioid addiction epidemic: “I am astonished to hear people suggest that we can solve our heroin crisis by legalizing marijuana—so people can trade one life-wrecking dependency for another that’s only slightly less awful.”

“Our nation needs to say clearly once again that using drugs will destroy your life,” he added.

The Trump administration should quit engaging in prohibition politics and look at the scientific results. It’s time to legalize marijuana to fight America’s opioid addiction.

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