New York Lawmakers Push to Treat Opioid Addiction with Cannabis

This could be a huge boost to New York’s medical marijuana program.

Although cannabis has long been falsely accused of being a “gateway drug” for harder substances like heroin and opioid-based painkillers, the public perception has dramatically shifted in recent years. So much so, in fact, that renowned doctors have essentially said just the opposite—cannabis can actually help ween people off of physically addicting opioids. Dr. Oz even went as far as to say it’s more of an “exit drug,” rather than a gateway one.

States have, slowly but surely, begun to adopt this new line of thinking, and it’s resulted in a trickle-down effect amongst lawmakers. A prime example of this has been within the Empire State, as New York Lawmakers push to treat opioid addiction with cannabis.

And it appears they’re winning the battle, slowly but surely.

New York Lawmakers Push to Treat Opioid Addiction with Cannabis

According to the New York Daily Newsthe New York State Assembly almost unanimously approved a bill that would add opioid addiction to the list of qualifying conditions to receive medical marijuana.

Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell (D-Manhattan), one of the main proponents of the new measure, says he and other supporters of the bill believe that a natural medically-proven solution like cannabis can help relieve many of the side-effects of opioid withdrawal, and contains much less risk than other opioid-based medications such as Vivitrol or Suboxin.

“This is a very serious problem in our society and this treatment works incredibly well,” said Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell (D-Manhattan), who introduced the measure,“ O’Donnell said. “The treatment experts should have this in their toolbox.”

However, per the Daily News report, the fate of the bill still hangs in the balance, as it remains in the hands of the state Senate, who also must approve the bill. While the New York State Assembly’s overwhelming approval does help the bill’s chances, it ideally will need Senate approval before June 20th, the date the legislation ends its session.

One potential solution, according to State Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island), is the bill merging with similar proposals aimed at increased access to medical marijuana throughout the state. This could include increasing the number of dispensaries allowed throughout New York, as well as an extended list of qualifying medical conditions for cannabis.

As it stands, New York’s medical marijuana’s policy is only accessible to those with very serious ailments. According to the New York State Department of Health, such qualifying conditions include: cancer, HIV infection or AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury with spasticity, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, neuropathy, Huntington’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder or chronic pain. 

But if the state Senate’s sentiment regarding marijuana is anything similar to that of the New York State Assembly, we could soon see opioid addiction on that list, sooner, rather than later.

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