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Gov. Cuomo Passes Law in NY to Allow Medical Cannabis as Opioid Alternative

In New York doctors can formally prescribe cannabis and patients are allowed to use it as a replacement for opioids.

Mary Carreon

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As adult-use laws spread, people worry that medical marijuana will seize to exist. The opposite happened in New York on Monday, however. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill that legally recognizes cannabis as a legitimate medical solution for pain management.

Earlier this year, NY’s Department of Health updated its list of qualifying conditions for a cannabis prescription to include opioid replacement and opioid addiction. Thus, the new bill now allows for substance-use-disorder treatment providers to recommend cannabis to treat pain instead of prescribing opioids. In essence, this new bill solidifies the Department of Health’s policy changes and makes a doctor’s script for cannabis lawful.

“In this battle against the opioid epidemic, it is critical that we use every means at our disposal to prevent the unnecessary prescription of these dangerous and addictive painkillers,” Gov. Cuomo said in a statement. “Adding these conditions to the list of those approved for management with medical marijuana will help reduce the risk of addiction and provide suffering New Yorkers the relief they need.”

The signage of this bill comes after the governor’s recent primary win over pro-cannabis candidate, Cynthia Nixon. Many wondered if running against Nixon would push Cuomo toward supporting cannabis–a substance he referred to as a “gateway drug” back in 2017. He even said he opposes recreational cannabis. Though this is a small piece of legislation, it suggests otherwise– and is a step in the right direction.

And, allegedly, Gov. Cuomo’s administration is working to draft legislation for the regulation of adult-use of cannabis.

“By adding substance-use disorder and pain management to the list of conditions eligible for treatment with medical marijuana, we will be allowing New Yorkers to take advantage of a harm reduction technique that can be used as an alternative to highly addictive opioids,” said Linda Rosenthal, the chair of the assembly committee on alcoholism and drug abuse, in a statement.

The state previously added chronic pain and PTSD to the list of treatable conditions for medical cannabis. According to a press release, medical marijuana can only be prescribed by a doctor if the pain a patient is experiencing degrades health and functional capability, along with other requirements.

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