Officials in the state of New York are taking large steps toward fighting the opioid crisis in the state while considering legalization of cannabis.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the opioid crisis began in the late 1990s and cause a rapid increase in use, affecting over two million Americans in 2015 alone. However, the crisis is showing possible signs of relief now that more patients than ever are treating their conditions with medical cannabis. New York is one state that is planning to use medical cannabis to combat opioid use while lawmakers dwell over legislation to add opioid addiction to its list of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis.
State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said that his department is working on new regulatory amendment to allow medical cannabis to substitute for opioid medications in New York. “The opioid epidemic in New York State is an unprecedented crisis, and it is critical to ensure that providers have as many options as possible to treat patients in the most effective way,” Zucker said. “As research indicates that marijuana can reduce the use of opioids, adding opioid use as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana has the potential to help save countless lives across the state.”
In January New York’s Gov. Chris Cuomo asked the state’s health department research to research legalizing cannabis in the state. Zucker announced the department will be releasing a report “soon” recommending that the state legalize recreational cannabis use. “We realized that the pros outweighed the cons and the report recommends that a regulated legal marijuana program be available to adults in New York,” he said.
New York lawmakers are working on a bill to allow medical cannabis to be used to treat opioid addiction. It passed the State Assembly almost unanimously, but with the Republican majority Senate ending its year on June 20 the state won’t see an answer soon.
“Our Senate majority is focused on making New York more affordable for hardworking taxpayers, helping businesses create new jobs for the middle class, and keeping families and communities safe,” Senate GOP spokesman Scott Reif said last month. “Let others focus on legalizing drugs and what that would look like.”