NY: Bill Would Expand Uses For Medical Marijuana

Photo Credit: Nicholas Belton

Right now, only patients with certain chronic illnesses are allowed to use medical marijuana for pain, but lawmakers want to change that. A bill in Albany would expand the list of people allowed to use medical marijuana as an alternative to opioids.

“You know, this bill will help. This bill will help patients,” says State Senator George Amedore.

Episodic pain results from conditions expected to last less than three months. Two Republican Senators from outside of Western New York are co-sponsoring a bill which would add it to the list of conditions eligible for medical marijuana treatment.

“This, we believe, is a great alternative and allows the choice someone of a doctor and a patient to have a remedy of pain to prescribe medical marijuana,” said Amedore on Thursday.

Right now, medical marijuana is approved to treat everything from chronic pain to PTSD to Parkinson’s disease in New York. The bill’s supporters say this addition would allow doctors to avoid prescribing opioids to patients who are at high risk for addiction or are in recovery. And, they say it would help reduce the circulation of addictive opioids in our state.

Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein says doctors need to take full advantage of other pain management therapies – like sending patients to a chiropractor for treatment or sending them to get acupuncture – instead of looking to drugs.

“Just, you know, throwing another drug at it is not necessarily the best option, especially if there is not good evidence that that drug is effective for that specific medical problem,” says Burstein.

The bill made it through the Senate Health Committee. It’s in the finance committee now and would have to get through the full Senate and Assembly by the end of the session in two-and-a-half weeks to go into effect this year.

If you have any questions about the state’s medical marijuana program, you can find a list of FAQs here.