New York State Assembly OK’s Medical Marijuana For Opioid Abuse Treatment

Photo Credit: Robyn Beck

The Assembly on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a bill that would allow medical marijuana to be used to treat opioid addiction.

“This is a very serious problem in our society and this treatment works incredibly well,” said Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell (D-Manhattan), who introduced the measure. “The treatment experts should have this in their tool box.”’

O’Donnell and other supporters of the bill believe medical marijuana can be an effective weapon against many symptoms recovering addicts experience, including nausea and anxiety. It also poses less risk than existing opioid-based treatments such as methadone or Vivitrol, they said.

The bill, however, still faces an uncertain fate in the state Senate, where it remains in the Health Committee.

State Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island) said she is hopeful the Assembly’s approval will spur action in the Senate before the Legislature is scheduled to end its session on June 20.

Savino said it’s possible the opioid bill will get merged with other measures before the Senate that are intended to improve patient access to medical marijuana, including legislation that would increase the number of dispensaries offering the drug.

“We are working on a bigger, better bill,” Savino said.

Currently, medical marijuana is legal in New York for only a handful of serious ailments and conditions, including cancer, HIV and AIDS, Lou Gehrig’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and some spinal injuries. In November, Gov. Cuomo signed a bill allowing the drug to be used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. O’Donnell’s legislation would add opioid use disorder to the list.