When It Comes To The Issue Of Cannabis And Opioids, The DEA Admits It Knows Nothing

In testimony before Congress last week, by DEA acting administrator Robert Patterson opined that the medicalization of cannabis is exacerbating opioid abuse. But when prompted to provide evidence in support of the agency’s position, he acknowledged that he could not. Further, he denied being aware of any evidence — including recent, well-publicized studies by the US National Academy of Sciences and others — indicating that cannabis mitigates pain or that its legal access is associated with reduced levels of opioid-related mortality.

I summarize this mind-boggling exchange in my recent Hill op-ed, which is excerpted below

Specifically, when asked by Florida Republican Matt Gaetz if the DEA was aware of the landmark 2017 National Academy of Sciences study finding, “There is conclusive or substantial evidence that cannabis [is] effective for the treatment for chronic pain,” Patterson answered that he was not.

He further acknowledged that he was unfamiliar with several state-specific, longitudinal studies, such as those from Minnesota and New Mexico, finding that chronic pain patients who register to partake in cannabis therapy dramatically decrease their use of opioids and other pain-relieving drugs. (Separate assessments of state-authorized medical cannabis patients in Illinois, Michigan, New York, and elsewhere affirm these conclusions).

He further claimed ignorance with regard to the findings of a highly publicized study in the Journal of the American Medical Association finding that medical cannabis regulation is associated with year-over-year declines in overall opioid-related mortality, including heroin overdose deaths.

Moreover, when pressed to provide evidence — any evidence — in support of the DEA’s questionable position, Patterson readily admitted that he knew of none. In fact, upon further questioning, he acknowledged that the DEA has, to date, never even so much as reviewed the issue. He further suggested that those patients seeking an alternative to opioid analgesics may wish to try “Tylenol.”

The testimony concluded:

Rep. Gaetz: “You’re the acting administrator of the DEA. You cannot cite a single study that indicates that medical marijuana creates a greater challenge with opioids, and you’re unaware of the studies, including studies from the National Academies of Sciences, that demonstrate that medical marijuana can be an acceptable alternative to opioids. Is that what I’m understanding?”

Robert Patterson: “Yes.”

To read the entire op-ed, please click the link here.

To watch a video of this exchange, as archived by MarijuanaMoment.net, please click here.

54 thoughts

    1. Sure agree to eagle wearing blinders. Those in charge of such important issues should be up to date or removed from there poisition. This is an important issue and a way to reduce the opioid problem we are having. For someone in this position to be so ignorant is wrong.

      1. The Eagle isn’t blind. It has a wad of tax payer dollars in one talon and Purdue opioids in the other:


        Why else would the DEA and Jeff Sessions finally go after a pharmaceutical company for overprecribing opioids… but instead of busting the obvious menace to society like Purdue or Insys Therapeutics, they go after an 177-year-old-company in Shreveport and get their @$$ handed to them in court.

        Just legalize marijuana already. Turn the DEA into the Drug Education Agency.

  1. If Trump had even half a brain, the next time he uses the word “disgraceful” he should be talking about the DEA!

  2. Why do we keep letting these ignorant(more than likely bought off by big pharms) DEA officials keep fining and jailing us when they won’t even raise their heads out from underneath the robs of big pharms. DEA is bought off. DEA only cares about big money. They will not look at any evidence that marijuana could be and is good for Americans. The DEA is going to have a lot of explaining when we finally bust their ass for lying all these years(remember reefer madness that the DEA put out that was full of lies) and ruining thousands of lives because they are bought off by big pharms). It’s time we took control of this government agency and remind them that they are not paid by big pharms but by us . We are the DEA’s boss whether they like it or not. It’s time to get these anti americans out of power so they can not rape and destroy us anymore.

    1. Love your comment-and the government is corrupt it’s all true I’m so happy Canada is about to be legal everybody knows it’s not harmful but yet they still fight why are we still living in the Stone Age money talks I guess

    2. Precisely: Ignorance requires a lack of knowledge. The DEA has PLENTY of information. What they lack is the power to “Just Say No” to Coerced Tax Payer Dollars. And they must be prosecuted for compensation.

    3. “We are the DEA’s boss”

      If we the people of this country are in fact the DEA’s boss we could fire them. The unfortunate truth is that their boss is the highest ranking members of the Congress and they seem to love what the DEA has been doing to us for decades.

      Theoretically the congress works for us so, the next time we get the chance, let’s fire them by voting DEMOCRAT!

  3. You know there are deep underlying issues with the system that is set up when an agency is forced to spout off nonsense even they dont believe. They have stooped to the levels of flat earthers at this point. Absolute absence of anything resembling integrity at the DEA.

  4. Semantics. The DEA’s Mr. Patterson and Rep. Gaetz are talking past each other. Cannabis has been shown to have medical value. Marijuana has been Scheduled to ignore its medical value. The law can split the same hairs by reforming the federal definition of marijuana to acknowledge the medical value of de-scheduled cannabis, so that the medical value of marijuana can be subsequently confirmed, like this:

    The term “marijuana” means all parts of the smoke produced by the combustion of the plant Cannabis sativa L. which is, as are the viable seeds of such plant, prohibited to be grown by or sold by any publicly traded corporation or subsidiary company, and such smoke is prohibited to be inhaled by any child or by any person bearing any firearm, as is the intake of any part or any product of such plant containing more than 0.3% THC by weight unless prescribed to such child by an authorized medical practitioner.

    This election year is a good time to contact our representatives in Congress to reform the federal definition of marijuana before rescheduling marijuana.

    1. Talk about semantics, Yearbait:
      Prohibiting the smoke of cannabis and throwing people in jail for consuming it that way is not “descheduling” marijuana, it’s “re” scheduling, and you know that.

      1. That’s a fair criticism. What I really meant, and should have said is, “…before removing marijuana from Schedule 1.”

      2. Only Congress has the power to reform their definition of marijuana to make it uphold the Constitution by literally specifying its meaning in the Necessary and Proper way to de-schedule the versatile cannabis plant; restore the 9th and 10th Amendment rights of real people to grow and use it; protect those rights via the Supremacy Clause; and reinforce the Well Regulated Militia Clause of the 2nd Amendment. How fervently do we want them to respect the Constitution? I suspect it is I more than you.

        While the federal agencies only have the power to reschedule marijuana, Congress has the power to also de-schedule cannabis smoke. How fervently do we want the feds to stop policing cannabis smoke? I suspect it is you more than I.

        First things first, I prefer reforming the federal definition of marijuana to restore our rights to the cannabis plant by de-scheduling it, then removing marijuana from Schedule 1. I suspect the evolution to de-scheduled cannabis smoke will continue to be slow.

      3. You didn’t answer the question, Yearbait.

        I didn’t ask if Congress has the authority to deschedule… you know we both know that.

        I asked if YOU prefer rescheduling over descheduling marijuana?

        It seems you have no moral backbone when it comes to throwing innocent people who “smoke” marijuana in jail. The least you could do is answer the question honestly.

  5. The very idea of Matt Gaetz, a rabid Trump supporter, challenging the DEA, or person place or thing, for that matter, on their grasp of the facts is classic Trumpian blame projection. (“I’m no puppet, you’re the puppet.”)

    Stoners already know about the DEA. We don’t need any lectures from the likes of Gaetz about facts. He simply does not have any room to talk.

    1. I hate the DEA as much as anyone. Who doesn’t? But I suggest subjecting Matt Gaetz to the same level of scrutiny about Traitor Trump, his Russian ties, his perpetual betrayal of USA, and about Gaetz’s support for such corruption; and then lets see if Gaetz fares any better under questioning.

  6. Marijuana legalization will reduce the number of deaths and ruined lives from opioid use; but even more importantly, it will reduce the number of deaths and ruined lives that result from being black in America!

    The article mentions New York as one of the places where studies have been done on marijuana’s capacity for reducing opioid abuse.

    But drug prohibition does more harm than drugs. In Manhattan, blacks are arrested for marijuana at a rate that is FIFTEEN TIMES that of whites!!

    Here is a press release from the office of the Manhattan D.A.:
    MAY 15, 2018
    New Manhattan D.A. “Decline to Prosecute” Policy Effective August 1st

    Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., today announced a new effort to reduce inequality and unnecessary interactions with the criminal justice system. Beginning August 1st, the D.A.’s Office will decline to prosecute marijuana possession and smoking cases. The District Attorney’s Office has invited the City of New York to recommend limited exceptions to this policy grounded in demonstrated public safety concerns before the policy becomes effective in August. Under one analysis by the D.A.’s Office, the policy is expected to reduce Manhattan marijuana prosecutions from approximately 5,000 per year to approximately 200 per year, a 96% reduction.

    “The dual mission of the Manhattan D.A.’s Office is a safer New York and a more equal justice system,” said District Attorney Vance. “The ongoing arrest and criminal prosecution of predominantly black and brown New Yorkers for smoking marijuana serves neither of these goals. Effective August 1st, my Office will decline to prosecute marijuana possession and smoking cases. We are in discussions with the Mayor and Police Commissioner to consider limited exceptions to this policy, the goal of which is to radically reduce the criminal prosecution of these offenses.”

  7. Great work Paul. We need a laser focus on the cooperation of willful ignorance and bloodmoney between the DEA and Big Pharma’s opioid health crisis and threat to our national security.

    Just when we think things couldnt get more hypocritical in our mation’s drug laws, Texas AG Ken Paxton, an avid prohibitionist, is reportedly suing large pharmaceutical companies, specifically Purdue to blame for the opioid crisis under “false and deceptive practises” for misleading oxycontin advertisement. Bexar County (San Antonio) is taking on Purdue and 20 other Big Pharma Co’s not only for deceptive practises and more interestingly, under the CSAct of Texas. The DA’s office of Bexar County recently decriminalized marijuana under 4oz of possession.

    How can cases like these not involve the DEA in mutual culpability? It’s been a year since WAPO broke the connection between the Sacklers, who own Purdue, and the purchase of the DEA’s best lawyers. Then came the connection between Purdue and the law that made it easier to distribute oxycontin without prosecution by the DEA. The Sacklers became billionaires while Americans increasingly overdose on opioids every minute. Finally, we saw Insys Therapuetics get sued by Illinois for kickbacks to doctors for overprescribing fentanyl, right about when they bought synthetic marijuana patents and dumped half a mil to stop legalization in Arizona.

    Reparations for corporate opioid overprescription must include legalizing marijuana.

  8. https://www.marijuanamoment.net/state-marijuana-laws-dodge-supreme-court-bullet/

    A SCOTUS decision Monday to legalize sports gambling reinforces states rights shooting down the anti commandeering doctrine, a federal push over states rights filed by Chris Christie. This reinforces that states with legal marijuana will not be prosecuted by the federal government with any success.

    But as I write, NPR is reporting on the low price of legal marijuana in Washington states due to bad regs and illegal grows. The DEA refuses to pick up the case.
    The black market and the opioid crisis will thrive until marijuana is legalized federally and across the board.

    Click on the ACT tab and contact your Congressman today.

  9. Is Republican Matt Gaetz so stupid that he believes he is fooling anyone. Why does the Republican party seem intent in shooting themselves in the foot at every turn. Do they thing we believe this lie, if so they are fools.

  10. https://www.texastribune.org/2018/05/15/democrats-collin-allred-lillian-salerno-pete-sessions-may-22-runoff/?utm_source=Texas+Tribune+Master&utm_campaign=6b65524bdb-trib-newsletters-the-brief&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_d9a68d8efc-6b65524bdb-101235045&mc_cid=6b65524bdb&mc_eid=b54ed21e31

    Pete Sessions is getting backed by a PAC from casino magnate, prohibitionist and guy who looks like a fat, mafioso zombie, Sheldon Adelson.


    But marijuana reforming PACs with their own big secret donors are ready to support the Democratic winner of special elections.
    Collin Allred is the likely contender for Democratic special elections. He has openly supported medical marijuana legalization. Whether he or Salerno win, Pete Sessions is only able to lose 1,200 votes in this Dallas district. Pete Sessions is the single worst prohibitionist in Congress, blocking every reform bill thus far, and is currently reviewing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s Hemp amendment to the Farm Bill.

    1. My God: NPR just reported that American farmers currently have the highest suicide rate of any occupation; even more than veterans!

      Farmers were some of Trump’s biggest supporters. But his threatening tarrifs on China backlashed into tarrifs on American soy, beef and corn.

      What NPR doesn’t report is that Trump’s secratary of Agriculture has been a disaster… giving power to big agribusiness like Bayer-Monsantos to determine policy, pushing small farmers over the brink. The cost if petrol based fertilizers from Koch Industries or dicamba pesticides, which kill all crops around soy and cotton fields in collateral damage, is not worth the subsidies for the generically patented and engineered crops that require more soil and water than we have available.

      If Pete Sessions kills this hemp amendment the GOP will officially lose their conservative title to hemp legalizing Democrats. The rural farmers that prop up the GOP will find that Blue is the new conservative, and only voting for Democrats will guarantee that legalized hemp and marijuana will save small farmers in a changing climate and economy.

      1. https://www.marijuanamoment.net/congressional-republicans-block-votes-on-hemp-amendments/

        Well, that was predictable. House Rules Chair and Spiderman villain on opioids Pete Sessions, R-TX, just killed all three hemp amendments on a party-line vote.
        Allred or Salerno, whichever Democrat wins the special election in stinky Pete’s district; you just became the conservative candidate. Please save our economy and our farmers from the greedy bureaucrats in the Republican party.

      2. Then Stinky Pete throws out more blame game and bait and switch by suggesting there’s an “agreement” with Mitch McConnell over the hemp bill. This is to suggest that the Senate will pass the hemp bill, which it may:


        With 4 Republican cosigners they can get enough votes to bypass Chuck Grassley in the Judicial Committee.

        But then even though the House has no hemp bill there might be a chance for the hemp bill in the bicameral conference committee.

        What’s alarming is when prohibitionist Pete Sessions says there’s “an agreement” with Mitch. What agreement? Sure that’s a way to make it look to voters, especially Republicans running for reelection like Turtle-head Mitch, even if they “fail” to pass a bill, (in other words, made-to-fail). Republicans are so full of bait and switch I wouldn’t be surprised to see Pete Sessions or Chuck Grassley on the bicameral conference committee.

        But what’s really messed up is the DEA and Jeff Sessions are out there lobbying against small farmers interests to legalize hemp just to save the easy tax money from programs like the Hemp Eradication Program… and the people voting these Republican bureaucratic sychophants into power are getting the life choked out of them.

        Conserve the farm;
        Conserve water;
        Conserve soil;
        Vote Hemp.
        Vote Democratic.

      3. “Whosoever would posture before you as a Conservative, ask first what they propose to Conserve.”

  11. I’ve seen other DEA heads testify in the past and this is nothing new. The incompetence of the DEA has existed for years. They bust people with pot instead of going after meth houses,the big pussies. I say disband the DEA fold ongoing investigations into the FBI and let’s finally scrape the shit off of our shoe and disband the DEA forever!!!

  12. The former President Nixon’s revenge on the Viet Nam anti-war protestor and the cold war it has caused within our society for so many decades is now getting closer to an end.

  13. DEA touts the mission line. Too bad they weren’t hooked up to a lie detector while testifying so we all can gauge if they were testilying.


    Pennsylvania’s MMJ research approval looks like they’re concentrated in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia with one place in Hershey somewhere in between.


  14. Not nearly enough research is being done. Pot has POTential for remedies and hopefully cures! How about some basic research being done in other cities? You could have doctors at the hospitals there doing cutting edge research if you’re willing to stick the money into it. Dr. Kurek snippet:

    “I think we know now 480 molecules. I describe cannabis as bag with different active compounds.”


    And does BilldeB mean they’re finally going to pave the way for cannabis coffeeshops a la Amsterdam? $ kaching $ BilldeB — Bilderberger LOL


    Andrew Cuomo has indicated he is now in favor of legalizing adult recreational. I want to see drafts of NYC’s version of the gedoogbeleid and the kind of horeca vergunningen and what kind of BIBOB you guys are gonna require. Sorry, no time to explain the Amsterdam terminology. The policy of cannabis arrests being nonprosecutable is the beginning of your gedoogbeleid. These laws are still technically on the books. Your permit to run a shop goes across the chief of police’s desk and the mayor or someone tasked by the mayor for applicants who have passed the background check is your version of the vergunning. The background check is your BIBOB.

    NYC, you can do this!


  15. Don’t bog the researchers down with seeing patients all the time. Some of them should be just doing basic research and not be treating patients until they have something they want to test and run a clinical trial on.

    1. True on a legal and scientific process at the lab level, Oracle. I would really love to see more mj legislation pushing for quality lab testing and open source patenting.
      But the wonderful thing about weed is that we get to try different strains and be our own lab trial studies… without all the horrific side effects of pharmaceuticals.

      What I find fascinating about our current marijuana law is that due to federal prohibition doctors have been forced to “recommend,” in order to keep from getting prosecuted. But the truth is whether we are dealing with research or treatment (which are entwined at the root) we find whole plant marijuana defies patent and prescription, leading us to recommend strain sampling for a variety of ailments, spiritual, physical, emotional or mental, as whole plant medicine was naturally cultivated to do. It’s no wonder that the prescribed owners of pharmaceutical patents are fighting marijuana legalization, with Kevin Sabet recently tweeting that Project SAM… get this… is “the resistance.” Legal, fairly taxed whole plant marijuana markets are even treatment for our entire saprophytic, synthetic patenting system.

  16. ”Cannabis is the plant of 1,001 molecules. I think we know now 480 molecules. I describe cannabis as bag with different active compounds.”

    Lots of research yet to be done

    1. Isn’t it ironic that owners of petrol to pharmaceutical patents are actively prohibiting the research of a plant that has been researching us for hundreds of thousands of years?

  17. Thanks, Julian, this link of yours says it all.


    Further reading: Many federalists, such as James Madison, argued that the Tenth Amendment was unnecessary because the powers of the federal government are carefully enumerated and limited in the Constitution. Because the Constitution does not give Congress, the president, or the federal judiciary the prerogative to regulate wholly local matters, Madison concluded that no such power existed and no such power would ever be exercised. However, British oppression had made the Founding Fathers fearful of unchecked centralized power. The Tenth Amendment was enacted to limit federal power. Although it appears clear on its face, the Tenth Amendment has not been consistently applied.” — thefreedictionary.com

    1. Which is precisely why these federal court cases are so important. Especially when only %11 of Texans are voting to elect Congress who makes our federal laws.

      But these federal decisions are determined… 10th amendment or otherwise… based on our local activity and from our state legislatures. What concerns me more than Madison’s interpretation of our 10th amendment or Constitution is that nowhere does the Constitution guarantee our right to vote. Even the Bill of Rights failed to make education of basic civics a federally mandated pillar of Democracy… which is why we never had a Democracy. State voter initiatives are the closest thing we have to direct democracy. In my humble opinion, the creation of the electoral college negates the whole point of the 10th amendment. And the way we’re headed, if we don’t switch gears in Congress this election, we won’t even have a Democratic Republic.
      But really, I’m a fairly optimistic guy. (Better start block walking…)

  18. So the DEA’s stance is keep head buried in sand and repeat their BS stance out their ass?

    1. Kevin, it’s called “propaganda.” Just like when the White House insisted that Trump’s dick size — er, I mean inauguration crowd size, was bigger than Obama’s.

      It was an obvious lie, easily refuted by photographic evidence.

      Trump lies, and everybody knows it. But what Trump really does is to bullshit; and, to bullshit and to lie are two different things.

      The purpose of a lie is to persuade a person to believe something that is not true.

      But the purpose of bullshit is different. The purpose of bullshit is to make the questions stop. For this purpose, the more outrageous and refutable the lie is, the better!

      Repeat: the purpose of Trump’s bullshit is not to make us believe his bullshit; he knows that we know it is bullshit. And he doesn’t care. The purpose of Trump’s bullshit is to make the questions stop.

      That way, he can continue his criminal plundering of USA, unfettered by the concerns of real Americans.

      Get it?

  19. We have seen what happens to private co.’s that deliberately lie to costomers solely to empower themselves (big tobacco, big pharma, asbestos producers). I wonder if our elected officials will be interested in being judged by the same standards now that folks have become angry enough to sue! Are the government agencies that KNOWINGLY perpetrated these lies and so DAMAGED their constituents going to be made to recompense their victims as the private co.’s have been forced to do?

    1. If Democrats would just get out and VOTE, the REFER Act and the Marijuana Justice Act would already be passed, both of which have reparations involved in their language. Click on the ACT tab and support these bills by contacting your reps and Senators.

  20. All the anti trump statements are why I no longer go on Norml. News flash. There are trump supporters who also support legalizing weed.

    1. News flash: You just went “on NORML.”
      And if you feel that you are a “Trump supporter” then let the Trump administration know you disagree with their prohibitionist record; Or better yet, click on the ACT tab and contact your federal representatives and Senators to reform marijuana law. Because the best thing any President can do is stay out of our way.

    2. Trump was the worst thing that could have happened to the marijuana legalization movement.

      So fine, take your comments and go home.

      NORML will benefit from your absence through the reduction of alt-right propaganda in the blog comment section.

    3. Justin, here is your take-home test:
      Trump does not support legalizing marijuana, or it would be a done deal by now, because he never would have appointed Sessions or Christie to anything involving drugs and law enforcement. So long as you support Trump, how you feel about marijuana legalization is irrelevant.

      Your assignment is: Learn it. Know it.

  21. It’s time to stack the deck with advocates that can be called upon at a moments notice to debate some of the most hardened, close minded, and contravening individuals who have been brainwashed since Herbert Hoover was President of the United States.

    1. 1. Thomas Jefferson never said that.
      2. “Stacking the deck” is cheating. Bad.
      3. “Stacking the deck” is the opposite of “draining the swamp.” Again, Bad.

      Just respect Truth! Use facts, not “alternative facts.” Integrity. Honesty. Truth. These are the tools we need.

      The Truth is on our side. We don’t need to cheat.

  22. It’s upsetting the entire situation. I feel like there are multiple sides with opinions from people who believe 100% they know enough to speak for What they think my Medical condition should be treated. Yes Medical marijuana is great and possibly remove four out of eight medications I take. I have epilepsy, spasms, spacicity, anxiety, insomnia, spinal stenosis and chronic pain. I’ve had nine surgeries within a year. Both feet, both arms and my spine. It’s not going to be a black and white . I wish marijuana actually eliminated my pain but when you have such pain to a certain degree those officials have never known what it’s like to cry in pain Just from standing up. When I saw my foot surgeon from past fusion this week and he asked how I’m doing I told him I am at a loss on what to do just cut off my feet already. I don’t want to be on opioids forever but every option for chronic pain is a controlled substance: opioids, ketamine iv infusion, thc. Thc is obviously the safest decision but not if it isn’t helping

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