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White House Director Discusses Cannabis, Drug Injection Sites

Rahul Gupta recently talked to the media about his first appointment as Director of the Office of National Drug Policy. Financial TimesHow they will address the opioid crisis. “For the first time in history, the federal government is embracing the specific policies of harm reduction,” Gupta said.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 107,000 Americans were killed by drug overdoses between 2021 and now. Fentanyl overdoses were responsible for two thirds of these deaths.

In May, the Biden Administration announced that it would be providing $1.5 billion to a State Opioid Response grant funding opportunity (a follow-up to President Biden’s promise in his State of the Union).

“At this time, less than one out of 10 people in the United States who need addiction care get it. That is why, President Biden released a National Drug Control Strategy to beat the overdose epidemic by going after its drivers: untreated addiction and drug trafficking,” Gupta said in May. “Today we are delivering on key parts of our Strategy through this new funding, which will expand access to treatment for substance use disorder and prevent overdoses, while we also work to reduce the supply of illicit drugs in our communities and dismantle drug trafficking.”

Some countries in Europe and Australia have implemented harm reduction and monitoring strategies, but the U.S. has been hampered by lawmakers who feel it will only encourage drug access and abuse.

While the country’s first two supervised drug-injection sites opened in New York in November 2021 to help prevent overdoses, an Appellate Court stated in January that these sites are illegal under Federal law. “The Department supports efforts to curb the opioid crisis ravaging this country, but injection sites are not the solution,” said Acting Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen. “There are more productive ways to address drug abuse, and today’s ruling by the Third Circuit has confirmed that these sites are illegal and therefore not the answer.”

According to Gupta, the solution of whether or not these injection sites should be shut down would be based on “science, data, and evidence available.” Furthermore, he believes that science will also drive the White House’s approach to cannabis legalization. “We’re learning from those states [with legalization]. We’re monitoring the data and trying to see where things go. One thing is certain, and President Trump has made it clear. The policies that we’ve had around marijuana have not been working,” Gupta said.

Gupta worked as an advisor for Holistic Industries, which is a multi-state cannabis company. It was the same company that makes Garcia Hand Picked and Jerry Garcia.

Gupta stated the importance to take action in a testimony that was published June 15. “Every life is precious and worth saving,” Gupta wrote. “If this Strategy is implemented as intended, we could save 164,000 lives over the next three years, and help tens of millions of people get into treatment and on the path to recovery. The President and I are committed to seeing this through because American lives depend on it.”

Biden declared that he supported medical cannabis but has yet to take any actions toward legalization. He did however sign an infrastructure bill for November 2021 that would allow researches to access commercial cannabis and not government-grown cannabis when they are conducting their studies. Most recently, Biden declared methamphetamine as an “emerging drug threat.”