Lawmakers say medical marijuana effective treatment for opioid addiction

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – A pair of lawmakers say evidence shows medical marijuana should be used to treat opioid addiction, but the Governor’s Department of Health Secretary will not let it happen.

This is the second time the state’s Medical Cannabis Advisory Board has recommended that the Secretary of Health add opioid addiction to the list of conditions treatable by medical marijuana, but nothing has changed.

It started with a petition several years ago by Anita Briscoe, a nurse from Espanola who says patients told her they were able to kick a heroin addiction thanks to medical marijuana.

In response to her petition and research on the issue, the board of eight doctors recommended in both 2016 and 2017 that opioid use disorder qualifies as a condition treatable by medical marijuana.

Health Secretary Lynn Gallagher, however, has not added it.

Now, Senator Jeff Steinborn and Representative Joanne Ferrary, both Las Cruces Democrats, are sponsoring memorials to persuade Gallagher.

“It is past time that the secretary do this. People are dying every day in the state of New Mexico from opioid abuse and medical marijuana has proven to be a safer treatment for any underlying conditions and hopefully to step people down from opioid addiction into something safer that won’t kill them,” says Senator Steinborn.

Memorials do not change the law, it is more of a call to action.

Steinborn and Ferrary believe that if Gallagher sees the majority of the legislature is behind the idea, she will finally get on board.

Last year, Republican Representative Nate Gentry did try to change the law to include opioid addiction as a treatable condition and despite bipartisan support, the governor vetoed it.

In response to KRQE’s story, the Department of Health says in part that it is taking a comprehensive approach to fighting opioid addiction, like making Naloxone more widely available. Naloxone is typically used for overdoses.

New Mexico has almost 48,000 medical marijuana users. Currently, there are 21 medical conditions that qualify for the program.

Read the Department of Health’s response here:

We’re taking a comprehensive approach to fighting opioid abuse and overdose fatalities in New Mexico – including enacting laws that make lifesaving drugs like Naloxone more available than ever before, and requiring the use of a prescription drug database to help avoid overprescribing.

The Department of Health will continue to responsibly administer the Medical Cannabis Program (MCP) and make sure that patients receive the most medically-appropriate treatment for their medical conditions in a way that doesn’t compromise their already vulnerable health.

2018 New Mexico Legislature Headquarters >>

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