Why can we legally grow Opium but not Cannabis?
Author: Caleb Masoner
Many people may be surprised to learn that even with the deadly opioid epidemic within the United States that we can still legally grow the plant that is processed to make opioids, as long as it is grown as an ornamental flower. Not quite spelled out in the law and only allowed due to some weird loophole or gentlemen’s agreement between florist and police departments where they will not mess with you if grown for flowers. Poppies, which is the plant that produces opium, morphine and heroin, are actually legal to grow and can be bought at many online stores. The only catch is that the moment you begin to process the poppy plant for an illegal purpose does it become illegal, as you are then considered a drug manufacturer in the eyes of the law.
The irony here is that in 2017, almost 50,000 people overdosed on an opioid.(1) However, one of the few drugs that can accurately claim zero deaths, cannabis, will land you in cuffs if you even possess a cannabis seed in some locations. Needless to say, there is quite a lot of hypocrisy when it comes to what we are allowed to grow to live a healthier lifestyle. Why is it that law enforcement overlooks individuals who grow ornamental poppies or poppies for seeds used in many recipes and toppings? In either case, why can I not grow my own medicine?
For years, we have relied on medical professionals to prescribe medicines to help us with our ailments, but the system needs a serious overhaul since most Americans can read, have resources and the ability to research ourselves now.(2) Just because we can do this research, however, does not mean that we are automatically qualified to diagnose your own illnesses, sorry hypochondriacs. Surely, even a teenager in 2019 has more access, knowledge and understanding of what it takes to remedy an illness than a young doctor who was fresh out of college in 1980 and did not have internet, yet was given the power to prescribe anything approved by the FDA. I am not saying that doctors have no role in today’s medicine, but I am saying that unless they are doing something I cannot research or do own my own (brain surgery), then I should be able to fix it (anxiety) myself. Why can we not treat ourselves? I am not lying when I say that my physician was literally googling medications for an illness at a visit to a doctor a couple years ago and then looking up the diagnosis to see what to prescribe. There has to be a point where we realize that we have created a monster with our healthcare system and it is not going away.
Since we do not allow our own citizens to take whatever measures are necessary to increase their quality of life, we have forced a bottleneck as Emergency Rooms become used for regular illnesses and our general practitioners are forced to run us through like cattle to meet their quota at a level they can be profitable. Our government systems are broken and forcing physicians and health organizations to accept low reimbursements and deal with increased regulatory hoops forcing our overworked doctors to change from a personalized standalone practice to consolidating bills to make it more affordable to practice medicine.
Beyond the legality of who can and cannot grow what…an even bigger questions looms: How was Purdue Pharma able to have OxyContin produced and approved for one of the most aggressive pain management marketing campaigns that stated OxyContin to be less prone for users to become addicted? Anyone who has taken OxyContin knows that it is one of the most powerful opioids available for medical use on the planet. Many individuals who are in chronic pain do need to have these options to be able to get through life and feel some sense of normalcy, so I’m not saying that there is no use. The issue does not lie with the pharmaceutical that was manufactured, because there is a legitimate medical need; we cannot ignore chronic pain patients and simultaneously enact stricter regulations for them simply because our regulatory agencies allowed this company to market their product and create millions of dependent citizens. What we must do is focus on the real issue: HOW ARE THESE MEDICATIONS BEING REVIEWED? Why is cannabis written off so easily, yet something that is THIS deadly was given two thumbs up?
It seems extremely mind-boggling when we analyze the fact that Cannabis alone has never caused one recorded overdose, yet our system is set up to label anyone who grows or uses cannabis as a criminal, an addict or lazy. This is why many advocates say that cannabis laws create a victimless criminal, and the only person harmed from using cannabis is the individual who is caught…and only because of the law that was created. Why would we need so much medical evidence to legalize a substance that has always been legal until the last 40 years? The reason is because the government did such a good job with the “Just Say No To Drugs” campaign that they have a few generations who still believe the propaganda messages. On one hand, you have concerned citizens who state that we should not be legalizing cannabis simply because it is less harmful than legal substances such as alcohol. Others say that it is our own body and we should be able to do what we want to it, as long as it does not interfere with anyone else’s life, liberty or pursuit of happiness. The simple fact is that using cannabis only hurts someone if they are caught using cannabis, ignoring the fact that a bloody drug war exists and people die regularly because we have chosen prohibition over regulation. As if we have not learned from the mistakes in our past, we continue to fuel a black market very similar to alcohol prohibition and legalizing and creating impractical pricing only compounds the issue. We cannot expect to set prices that allow the black market to continue to thrive just to say “see it didn’t work”…just because we use cannabis doesn’t mean we are dumb, contrary to what the “your brain on cannabis” fried egg commercials.
Maybe it is what they want though? Wasn’t cannabis prohibition used to further the ability for the government to control the population? Cannabis was widely recognized and used as a medicinal extract until Nixon decided to use the “War on Drugs” to help control dissent among young Americans that were against his war in Vietnam. The president even stated in a national address, that drug abuse is “public enemy number one” and that even our Veterans were becoming “addicted as they serve in Vietnam, or Europe or other places”.(3) Apparently, the pharmaceutical industry is exempt from being labeled an enemy, even though they knew the risks, and even encouraged sales through a lucrative bonus system that allowed a sales representative with an average salary of $55,000 to make an average of $71,500 in bonuses, and even paid $40 million in bonuses in 2001.(4)
We do not go through life with a helmet, elbow and “kneebow” pads always on, so why do we have agencies that are restricting how we can live “for our own safety”? From seatbelt laws to victimless crimes, we have created a framework to criminalize otherwise law-abiding citizens in the name of protecting them from themselves. America is the land of liberty, freedom and the pursuit of happiness, but sometimes we act like ignoring a problem, such as the cannabis black market, will make it go away then we are grossly mistaken. It is understandable that the FDA can control which substances that businesses and manufacturers can produce and sell, but they should not have control over my kitchen. The decision is ultimately up to certain departments within the government to act, whether it is the FDA, DEA or the President. Reach out to your local representatives and demand change.