Maryland has recently been cited as a state with a high rate of opioid addiction, and now some are seeing legalizing marijuana as taking a lead against the epidemic and are also urging southern states like Kentucky to join in.
Newsmax reports that nine states will be voting on marijuana legalization in 2016, but is there some specific reason Maryland is urging southern states to join in?
The Hill explained in an opinion piece on August 4 that Maryland will be fighting back at the opioid epidemic in their state by legalizing marijuana. They also state that some drug treatment specialists in Maryland are considering medical cannabis as treatment for opioid addiction due to a recent study from the University of Georgia.
Citizens in the state of Kentucky have also expressed an interest in this form of opioid treatment, but medical marijuana is still illegal in the state despite recent considerations, as previously reported by the Inquisitr.
Part of the reason that Maryland could be urging other states to join in with legalizing cannabis pertains to the lack of opioid treatment options in other states in the south.
For example, NPR reported on June 15 that those in the opioid treatment industry in Georgia were outraged when the state decided to place limits on opening new clinics.
The rehabilitation clinics they do have are needed because Georgia has almost 70 opioid treatment programs. By contrast, nearby Tennessee has 12, Alabama has 24, and Mississippi has one.
Although any clinic for opioid addiction is better than no clinic at all, many Kentuckians have learned from states like Massachusetts, that they need to have medical marijuana options, specifically for opioid addiction, according to CBS News.
States that use marijuana to treat addiction could also become leaders because the numbers of opioid deaths are rapidly increasing nationwide.
Whether it is heroin, painkillers, or fentanyl, Americans are now dying at higher rates from opioid drugs, and the rate exceeds other types of accidents. For example, Vox wrote on June 2 that more Americans were killed by painkillers (42,000) in 2014 than car crashes (34,000), or gun violence (34,000).
Naturally, any help Kentucky can get to fight opioid addiction with or without legalizing marijuana would be welcome, and a 2015 report from the Boston Globe about the epidemic in Eastern Kentucky quoted a drug treatment prevention worker stating the following.
“We’ve lost a whole generation of people who would have been paying taxes, and buying homes, and contributing to society.”
Eastern Kentucky has been highly documented in regards to having one of the worst opioid epidemics in America, and an investigative report about the Appalachian crisis in the Guardian in 2014 stated that “stigma and inadequate access to treatment are the biggest barriers to overcoming the ongoing crisis in Appalachia and across the country.”
However, outside of being an effective treatment for battling the state’s opioid epidemic, many Kentuckians are excited to see the other improvements that legalizing marijuana, or hemp, could have for economies like the one in Eastern Kentucky.
According to some reports, the process begins with decriminalizing marijuana. The act of decriminalization of marijuana will also likely protect the prominent illegal operations already deeply entrenched in Eastern Kentucky, as described by Columbus Dispatch.
Kentuckians for Medical Marijuana published a 2013 study by Charles B. Fields, Ph.D., Professor of Justice Studies at Eastern Kentucky University, that stated “economic benefits… can be realized by the State of Kentucky by both receiving tax benefits and reducing expenditures enforcing current marijuana laws.”
In other words, there is a price to pay to keep marijuana illegal in Kentucky, and legalizing cannabis or decriminalizing the growing, selling, or distribution could reduce Kentucky’s overall drug enforcement costs.
Currently, the unregulated marijuana industry in Eastern Kentucky produces an estimated $4 billion per year, according to a commonly cited 2008 History Channel documentary on Appalachia called Hillbilly: The Real Story.