Cannabis has been shown time and again to have medicinal benefits to patients with varying debilitating diseases. A new study shows that medicinal marijuana can actually help in the ongoing opioid crisis as well. Researchers out of University of California San Diego and Cornell Medical College find that statewide medical cannabis legalization, implemented between 1993 and 2014 in the US, was associated with close to 30% reductions in Schedule III opioids received by Medicaid enrollees.
While an increasing amount of studies focused on medical cannabis have come out, there is still debate over the viability of marijuana for medicinal purposes in general. Nonetheless, individual States have taken the initiative to use the legal framework to help combat a the emerging opioid crisis within their borders.
In the State of New York, Governor Cuomo has taken immediate action to provide medicinal marijuana cards to those suffering with opioid addiction. It is hoped that through this effort the opioid epidemic can be weakened by allowing patients dependent on opioids to use marijuana in order to either wean them off of opioids, or to use it for a replacement to opioids.
Regulators have stated patients enrolled in a certified opioid treatment program would be able to use medical cannabis. In addition, patients with severe pain that doesn’t meet the definition of chronic pain would be able to use medical marijuana as a replacement for opioids; chronic pain already is one of New York’s qualifying conditions under their program. This action will also provide a basis for other states undergoing an opioid crisis to know whether this sort of measure should be taken other places to attack this epidemic. Even though a state like New York has taken immediate action, there are places where the topic of medicinal marijuana is still debated.
In Ohio, medicinal marijuana products (rather than the flower itself) were legalized in 2016, however many healthcare providers have stated they will not be prescribing medicinal marijuana products to any of their patients. Companies, like Mercy Health in Bond Hill, are among a variety of healthcare providers that are barring any of their doctors from prescribing it to any patients, including those suffering through chemotherapy.
This news has caused many doctors and nurses to leave these healthcare providers and start their own practices. This is because these doctors feel the need to prescribe patients whatever they really need, whether it be marijuana or not. Still, with an ongoing opioid crisis in Ohio, along with actual patients that could use marijuana, pressure will mount for healthcare companies to start looking into whether or not they should start prescribing it.
In contrast, however, Pennsylvania became the first state to approve medical marijuana as a treatment for opioid use disorder; Doctors with the required credentials can offer medical marijuana to patients when treatments such as abstinence therapy or medication-assisted treatment have failed, or in conjunction with those methods.
Additionally, the State has tapped eight universities to conduct medical-marijuana research, and hopes opioid use disorder will be among the topics for exploration. Along with broadening the access for Patients, State Legislators approved the sale of medical cannabis flower as an alternative means of consumption. Besides oils and extracts originally approved under the State framework, making available all forms of medical cannabis can drastically reduce the cost of the medicine for the end consumer, and streamline the supply chain for State Licensees.
Today, as it stands, medicinal cannabis has studies to show its medicinal value, however those studies have not convinced people or institutions entirely. However, there is a noticeable trend of legalization for medicinal marijuana, and one could reasonably think that this trend will continue and spread.
Authored by: Will Knight (Business Development Intern)