New York is Embracing Cannabinoids for Opiate Withdrawal Therapy

New York is reanalyzing its medical marijuana policy and one of its biggest considerations is using cannabinoids for opiate withdrawal. Bill 23-1, which would add opioid addiction to the list of conditions that would qualify New York residents for a medical marijuana card, was signed by the Assembly Health Committee last week.

The opioid epidemic is one of the worst challenges facing the country and in states like Colorado, opiate based overdose deaths have gone down while the national average continues to climb. It is interesting that New York would add opioid addiction to its list of qualifying conditions to be granted a medical marijuana card considering their program is very limited relative to other states.

Legislation introduced this month in both the Senate and Assembly would expand the legal uses of medical marijuana in New York to include opioid addiction treatment.

โ€œWe have an opioid crisis and people are dying and this may be a path to keep people from dying and keep them from relapsing,โ€ said Assemblyman Daniel Oโ€™Donnell (D-Manhattan), who introduced the measure. Oโ€™Donnell and other supporters of the bill say medical marijuana can be an effective weapon against many symptoms recovering addicts experience, including nausea and anxiety.

It also poses less risk than existing opioid-based treatments such as methadone or Vivitrol, they said.

โ€œFar from being a gateway drug, marijuana is potentially an exit drug for people using opioids,โ€ said Melissa Moore, deputy state director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which supports the bill.

Moore said there is a growing amount of research showing access to marijuana reduces incidents of opioid-related deaths and addiction relapses.

Currently, medical marijuana is legal in New York for only a handful of serious ailments and conditions, including cancer, HIV and AIDS, Lou Gehrigโ€™s, Parkinsonโ€™s and Huntingtonโ€™s diseases, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and some spinal injuries. In November, Gov. Cuomo signed a bill allowing the drug to be used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. Oโ€™Donnellโ€™s legislation would add opioid use disorder to the list.

Pennsylvania is the only other state that even references opiate addiction in its medical marijuana policy as a qualifying condition. Does it seem like New York is really turning the corner in terms of its perspectives on legalized cannabis?

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