Monthly Archives: February 2017

Attorney General Sessions wants to know the science on marijuana and opioids. Here it is.

By Christopher Ingraham

Speaking this morning before the National Association of Attorneys General, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions expressed doubt that marijuana could help mitigate the opioid abuse epidemic.

“I see a line in The Washington Post today [link added] that I remember from the ’80s,” Sessions said. “‘Marijuana is a cure for opiate abuse.’ Give me a break. This is the kind of argument that’s been made out there to just — almost a desperate attempt to defend the harmlessness of marijuana or even its benefits. I doubt that’s true. Maybe science will prove I’m wrong.”

The stakes are pretty high here. After all, opioids killed 33,000 people in 2015, up from around 8,000 in 1999. As the head of the Department of Justice, Attorney General Sessions oversees the Drug Enforcement Administration, which just last year reaffirmed its belief that marijuana has no medical value and hence should remain illegal (which makes it substantially more difficult for researchers to conduct studies).

Here’s a run-down of where the evidence on marijuana and opiates stands.

Marijuana is great at treating chronic pain.

This is the big finding, and the one from which all the others spring. Surveying the entire known universe of studies about the medical efficacies of cannabis, the National Academies of Science, Medicine and Engineering found “strong evidence” showing marijuana is effective at dealing with chronic pain in adults, relative to a placebo. The National Academies study is the most thorough review of the literature on marijuana to date, conducted by some of the nation’s leading substance use researchers.

Across numerous trials and experiments, the report found, people treated for pain with marijuana were “<a class="colorbox" …read more


Upper class elites might hate Trump, but they were key to his success

By Ana Swanson

If you’re a member of the educated, urban elite, you probably consider inequality a terrible thing and see yourself as someone fighting against it. But in a new book, George Mason University economist Tyler Cowen describes how the forces that have benefited highly skilled and educated people in past decades are the same ones that have held others down.

In “The Complacent Class,” Cowen, who runs the popular blog Marginal Revolution, argues that a new kind of cultural segregation has become the norm in American life, benefiting a select class — and leaving many more people simply stuck. The U.S. population has sorted out not only along political lines, but also by education, race, income, social status and even technological ability. Along the way, the country has become more polarized, less dynamic and less fair.

Cowen argues that the educated urban elite, who are well equipped to compete in today’s economy, have become increasingly isolated from other parts of the country — and so don’t see the urgency with which the country needs reform to help those left behind. While people on the top have little motivation to change, he believes they may be forced to, as others grow increasingly disgruntled.

I spoke with Cowen in December about the book, which was released Tuesday. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

In the book, you discuss how new “matching” technologies are helping to make the world a more enjoyable place — for example, websites and apps that help people find better jobs and more suitable mates. We think of these technologies as a good thing, but you point out they have …read more


Billionaire investor Wilbur Ross confirmed as Trump’s secretary of commerce

By Ana Swanson

Wilbur L. Ross, Jr., a former banker and investor who earned billions during decades of buying and selling industries and who President Trump has touted to lead his trade negotiations, was confirmed as secretary of commerce by the Senate in a 72-to-27 vote on Monday night.

Dubbed the “king of bankruptcy” for his leveraged buyouts of battered companies in the steel, coal, textile and banking industries, Ross has generated a fortune of $2.5 billion, ranking him among the wealthiest 250 people in America, according to Forbes.

Ross worked for decades at the New York investment bank of Rothschild, during which time he represented Trump’s failing Taj Mahal casino and helped forge a deal that allowed Trump to retain ownership.

In the early 2000s, Ross purchased some of America’s largest steel mills, including Pennsylvania’s Bethlehem Steel and Cleveland’s LTV Corp. He later sold his steel conglomerate to India’s Mittal Steel, helping to form what is now the world’s largest steel company.

Ross’s confirmation was largely uncontroversial, though Sen. Cory Booker (D.-N.J.) and other Democrats asked the billionaire in recent days to clarify his business ties to Russian shareholders while serving on the board of directors of a Cypriot bank.

Some critics have condemn Ross for taking over troubled companies and shipping jobs overseas, while his supporters claim he saved the companies from going under and preserved American jobs in the process. Trump has praised Ross as a savvy businessman and one of the most valuable advisers in his administration.

Ross agreed to divest of nearly all of his personal holdings and resigned from dozens of boards and organizations to take the Commerce Department post.

Trump has said that Ross …read more