The New York State Assembly has overwhelmingly approved a bill that would allow people suffering from opioid use disorder access to medical marijuana treatments. The bill will now have to face the Senate Health Committee.
Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell (D-Manhattan) introduced the bill which has since gained significant support in the assembly. He, and other supporters of the measure believe that cannabis can offer effective treatment for people recovering from opioid addictions.
"This is a very serious problem in our society and this treatment works incredibly well,” O'Donnell told NY Daily News. "The treatment experts should have this in their tool box."
Senator Diane Savino (D-Staten Island) says they "are working on a bigger, better bill" that would merge the new bill with other measures further increasing patient access to medical marijuana treatments.
Right now, access to medicinal marijuana is heavily restricted in New York. Under the state's current regulations, only conditions that are considered severely debilitating (e.g. cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis) are considered. So adding opioid addiction to the list of qualifying conditions would signal the state's willingness to consider expanding the medical marijuana program to help other patients who could benefit from medicinal cannabis.
And since recent studies show that cannabis is effective at helping patients kick opioid addiction, the new regulations could save some of the more than 49,000 Americans lives lost to opioid addiction in 2016 alone.