Legislature Passes Medical Marijuana as Opioid Alternative and Addiction Treatment

The New York State Assembly and Senate have passed legislation allowing use of medical marijuana to treat pain as an alternative to using opioids to treat pain, and for treatment of substance use disorders. A11011A/S8987A(Gottfried/Amedore) passed both Houses overwhelmingly. It now goes to Governor Cuomo for signature.

"To help reduce opioid use, it is critical that practitioners have more alternatives for treating pain," said Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried (D/WF-Manhattan), Assembly sponsor of the bill. "Evidence from across the country shows that access to medical marijuana for pain treatment reduces the use of much more dangerous opioids. It's a safe and effective alternative."

Senator George Amedore, Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse (R/C/I - Rotterdam) said, "As we continue to look for ways to address the heroin and opioid epidemic, allowing the use of medical marijuana to treat substance use disorder or as an alternative to opioids is important to ensure that prescribers and patients have every resource at their disposal. This legislation will help patients, reduce the number of highly addictive opioids in circulation, and ultimately, it will save lives."

"As the opioid crisis rages on, we must identify alternatives to opioids for pain management. Medical marijuana is a non-addictive pain relief alternative and can also help diminish the symptoms of opioid withdrawal. As the Chair of the Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, I applaud Assemblymember Gottfried for working to pass this common sense, lifesaving piece of legislation," said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF-Manhattan).

Currently, patients can get medical marijuana as pain treatment only if the pain is paired with certain other conditions . It may also be used for pain that is expected to last longer than three months, under Health Department regulations. The New York State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker recently announced that he will propose a regulation authorizing use of medical marijuana for pain as an alternative to opioid use, similar to the first provision of this bill.