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New Mexico lawmakers demand medical marijuana access to address opioid crisis

In New Mexico, the use and possession of marijuana is allowed for treating some 21 debilitating or life-threatening medical conditions, such as chronic pain, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Parkinson’s disease, HIV/AIDS, and ulcerative colitis, among others. Now, some lawmakers here are lobbying for the inclusion of opioid addiction on the list of qualifying illnesses for the state’s Medical Cannabis Program (MCP).

On Feb. 12, 2018, the supporting members met in Santa Fe with representatives of the Drug Policy Alliance to gather support in favor of allowing benefits of MCP to people with opioid-related problems. “Thousands of our neighbors and relatives are suffering, and so are families and communities. The time to act is now,” said Senator Jeff Steinborn of Las Cruces, one of the Democrats backing the move.

The supporters argued that medical marijuana could be an effective therapeutic approach to address opioid withdrawal symptoms. “We know this is an effective harm reduction measure so we’re just trying to show the secretary that there are a lot of New Mexicans out here that believe in this,” said Jessica Gelay of the Drug Policy Alliance.

An advisory panel has considered two petitions for allowing medical marijuana to help patients address opioid abuse. The most recent came for panel’s perusal in November 2017. As the state’s Health Department notified, Secretary Lynn Gallagher is awaiting panel’s report before making a final decision. Notably, Gallagher had rejected the previous recommendation of the advisory board in June 2017.

Until now, 48,000 patients have been enrolled for the decade-old MCP. In Santa Fe County, the number of licensed patients has witnessed nearly 43 percent jump since January 2017. Currently, the county has seven marijuana dispensaries, while two more are soon to come up. Meanwhile, Health Department spokesman Paul Rhien has suggested that the state is considering an elaborate plan to control opioid abuse and overdose deaths.

Getting access to medical marijuana in New Mexico

Having a doctor’s prescription for medical marijuana is not enough for patients to get the drug from a pharmacy. Instead, patients have to produce a medical cannabis recommendation in their name (subject to compliance with state law) by a medical marijuana physician.

Under New Mexico medical marijuana law, qualified patients may procure medical cannabis from a licensed producer and possess the drug up to a limit of 6 ounces. Patients who choose to grow their own medical marijuana need to apply for a license. However, they are supposed to review the licensing requirements before applying for the same.

Marijuana is dangerously addictive

The 2017 Gallup poll saw 51 percent Republicans voting in favor of legalization of weed, which is a nine percentage point increase over the last year. Though public sentiment is with the legalization, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is against the move. However, more and more states are liberalizing their marijuana laws. Recreational marijuana, which was not legal anywhere in the country five years ago, is now available in nine states and the District of Columbia.

But the fact remains that marijuana is a highly addictive drug. The 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) revealed that 24 million people aged 12 or older were current marijuana users in that year. Also, around 4 million people in this age group had a marijuana use disorder. So harmful effects associated with marijuana use cannot be ignored.

If you know somebody struggling with addiction to marijuana or any other drug, encourage him or her to seek immediate medical attention. The 24/7 Recovery Helpline is a credible online resource that provides effective information on residential drug rehab centers in the U.S. Call our 24/7 helpline number (855) 441-4405 or chat online with a representative to find one of the best residential drug treatment centers near you.

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