Lebanon, Oregon— As the opioid crisis continues to plague the country, one cannabis company in Oregon is proposing a new solution. Kaya Holdings Inc. (KAYS), the first publicly traded company to open and operate a medical cannabis dispensary, is planning to set up an opioid-for-weed swap program where addicts can trade in their pills for the plant.
According to a press release, Kaya Holdings CEO Craig Frank said:
“We decided to step up and do our part after President Trump announced the war on the opioid epidemic.”
He went on to cite recent preliminary research suggesting that cannabis is linked to a reduction in opioid dependence and death in states where it is legal. Frank also referenced President Trump’s recent declaration of emergency.
“Numerous studies, including those reported by Newsweek, NBC News, US News and World Report, CNN and others, have shown that states with legal marijuana programs have declining rates of opioid addiction, with some states reporting a decrease in deaths as high as 25%,” Frank said in the company’s press release.
“We want to help people in the communities we serve, as well as demonstrate that cannabis companies can be part of the President’s solution to the crisis.”
Kaya Senior Advisor, W. David Jones, also weighed in. “The opioid epidemic kills an average of 91 Americans a day. Beyond the human cost in lives and devastated families, the epidemic disrupts our economy with reduced productivity and increased healthcare costs,” he said, also mentioning the Trump administration. “We realize this administration has been reviewing its stance on legal marijuana and we appreciate US Attorney Jeff Sessions’ clarification to Congress regarding the Cole Amendment,” he said.
The Cole Amendment is an Obama-era memo that directed U.S. attorneys to respect cannabis laws in states that legalize the plant and establish a regulatory framework. Though Sessions has consistently expressed his opposition to cannabis, he acknowledged the validity of the memo in March.
Discussing Kaya Holdings swap plan, called “Kaya Cares,” Jones referred to Trump’s call for private sector-based solutions. “We believe a program like Kaya Cares and other initiatives to be undertaken by KAYS will help transition people away from dangerous opioids, making the government’s war on opioids a little more successful,” he said.
As a result, the company says it will be holding talks with Oregon state and local law enforcement and compliance officials to discuss their plan for a program where “people dependent on opioids and wishing to explore cannabis as a safe alternative can exchange their prescription opioids for cannabis products at no cost.” Oregon is one of the hardest hit states, with three people dying from overdose per week.
The company currently owns three retail marijuana stores and is set to open a fourth. It also owns 26 acres of land in Lebanon, Oregon, where it plans to “develop the Kaya Farms™ medical and recreational marijuana grow and manufacturing complex, at which it plans to explore development of opioid-free cannabis-infused pain relief alternatives. “
Though a significant portion of the president’s plan for stopping the opioid crisis and drug addiction rests on law enforcement — a continuation of drug war policies — and the failed “just say no” mentality, Kaya Holding’s proactive approach could serve as a valuable model for progress if Oregon authorities allow the company to proceed.