With an opioid crisis already a national issue, a debate continues as to marijuana could introduce drug users to more addictive and potentially lethal substances.
Syracuse City Drug Court Judge James Cecile said he deals with very few cases in his treatment court in which people have a substance abuse problem that is strictly cannabis, but it’s rare that drug offenders don’t have marijuana somewhere in their lives.
“I have absolutely seen a connection to people starting out with marijuana or smoking marijuana and then moving on to harsher drugs such as heroin or opioids and things like that,” Cecile said.
Colin McCallin, a defense attorney in Denver, Colorado, where recreational marijuana is legal, also deals with clients with drug addictions, however, has never heard of someone dying from smoking too much marijuana.
But pot’s potency with higher levels of THC in recent years concerns former White House policy advisor Kevin Sabet.
“We’re adulterating it,” Sabet said. “We’re getting the THC from it and totally abnormal ways in ways we’ve never done it before. We’re extracting it and getting it in 99% oils that you have to put on the end of the needle and then put it in a device that you’re going to vape.”
Sabet, who is now president of the organization Smart Approaches to Marijuana, acknowledged that marijuana users don’t use all drugs but research continues in search of a connection.
“There are plenty of people who use marijuana,” he said. “The vast majority of them never use other drugs; 98% of heroin and cocaine users used marijuana first. So researchers are looking into that mechanism. Why is that? Is there something in the brain that primes the brain to want a bigger high to want a drug like an opiate, or cocaine?”