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Feed The Beast

Feed The Beast

How do you know a politician is telling you false information? Their lips are moving. To whom do I owe this hunk of dishonesty? U.S. Representative Marsha Blackburn. She has become the Queen of the Opiate Epidemic.

A couple of weeks ago, 60 Minutes aired a program that featured DEA agents who specifically identified new legislation that removed their tools, helping to keep large shipments of narcotics in the hands of those who sell them illegally. The Washington Post ran an investigative story and asserted the same understanding as 60 Minutes. I will give you one guess who co-sponsored the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act which hog-tied the DEA? Congressman Marsha Blackburn.

In an editorial in the Commercial Appeal, Representative Blackburn made bold statements about her commitment to reducing the number of opioid related deaths in Tennessee and across the nation. She stated that she stands strong against drug dealers and has compassion and empathy for drug addicts. She wants addicts to have access to treatment, especially those who were jailed and moved to safe facilities to recover and reset their lives. She also supports drug courts. As a mom, her heart breaks with every story of a life lost from the crisis. "It isn't about making bad people good; it's about helping sick people become well." But what has she done for us lately?

Blackburn maintains that she took action to change laws because she heard in her district that veterans and patients with chronic pain were unable to get their prescription pain medications because the DEA restricted shipments which was action taken to stop prescription drug abuse. Until the newest legislation was passed, the DEA was able to freeze shipments deemed likely to cause "imminent danger." In 2011, 65 shipments across the nation were stopped.

When the new legislation was introduced and ultimately passed, the standards for stopping shipments changed from imminent danger to: a substantial likelihood of an immediate threat of death, serious bodily harm or drug abuse. Drug manufacture lobbyists were involved in drafting the legislation as well as pressuring the DEA agency's leaders to make suspensions much more difficult to approve even before the legislation was passed into law in 2016. In 2015, five shipments were frozen, eight in 2016.

What is the return to Blackburn for drafting and pushing for reform? Ninety-six thousand dollars in campaign contributions from political-action-committees associated with large opioid manufacturers, drug distributors and groups associated with the narcotic drug industry since 2012. You can bet she will receive twice as much from them when she makes a run for the US Senate position vacated by Senator Corker. She is just what we need: another career politician in Washington DC who is beholding to Big Pharma. It's one thing to push for greater access to healthcare, it's another encouraging the diversion of narcotics to the very addicts she contends requires treatment. She did not strengthen the DEA, she castrated it.

More than four thousand Tennesseans have died of opioid overdoses since 2014. Tennessee is one of the hardest hit states in the country. According to statistics, Tennessee has the highest rate of prescription narcotic use per person in the United States. Our State has made drastic changes in pain management laws and standards of care, making it mandatory for physicians to stop giving pain medication out like candy. However, the shipments continue to flow into the state. Where are all these drugs going?

Regardless of your political persuasion, opioid abuse has risen to a public health concern in the first order. Instead of Blackburn sponsoring and passing new Federal laws that would allow safe cannabinoid use for our Tennessee residents with chronic pain or other ailments, we are left with only narcotics and ineffective antidepressants and anti-seizure medications in our tool box to fill in the gaps. Even though recent surveys show three out of four Tennesseans desire medical marijuana available in Tennessee, the State legislative body believes that Tennesseans are not ready for it yet. If Blackburn is receiving thousands of dollars from the narcotic lobby, I wonder how much money is going to our State Senators and Representatives from PACs and lobbyists to keep Tennesseans in the dark ages and on the top of the narcotic use and abuse mountain. Perhaps old fashioned opium dens would be the next step in controlling the abuse. Gives an entirely new feel to the song, "Rocky Top."

I have been told that politics is a dirty game. I suspect it doesn't have to be, it just is. Power leads to corruption in all forms. No matter how Congressman Blackburn wishes to spin her tales associated with the authorship and passage of the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2016, it is clear from the investigative reports that her heart was in the right place: money. If she is going to continue her career as a US Senator, it appears that campaign donations will drive Blackburn's intentionality, not morality. I'm hopeful that when the marijuana lobby becomes extremely powerful, organized and wealthy, she will be in favor of doing the right thing again; especially if marijuana PACs donate large sums of money to her campaign war chest.

But if the Big Pharma PACs and opioid lobbyists out donate the marijuana camp, its appears she will continue to help promote more narcotics to Tennesseans and perhaps all Americans who probably don't need them, but have no alternate but to use them. There is a much more bizarre twist to this story that no one could have predicted.

Blackburn's co-sponsor of the bill was US Representative Tom Marino of Pennsylvania. He was nominated in September 2017 to become the nation's drug czar. He withdrew his name from consideration after the investigative reports surfaced publically.

Feed the Beast. That's what Blackburn's doing: Feeding the Beast of Opiate Abuse for her own personal gain. Shame on her. Shame on us for believing in her. Shame on her again.


Posted by Amanda Sanders at 10:19 AM
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