Advocates hope health secretary approves medical pot for opioid addicts | KOB 4
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Advocates hope health secretary approves medical pot for opioid addicts

Morgan Aguilar
November 03, 2017 05:27 PM

SANTA FE, N.M. – The New Mexico Department of Health Medical Cannabis Advisory Board voted unanimously on Friday to add Opioid Use Disorder as a condition for which medical cannabis can be used to help treat.

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The board approved a similar petition in 2016 in a 5-1 vote, but Health Secretary Lynn Gallagher did not approve it.

Anita Briscoe, who brought the petition before the department, said Gallagher cited a lack of research on their last attempt. This time, she and other supporters hope they shared sufficient evidence to persuade her.

"If there was some way that my sister could've used cannabis instead of opioids, she'd probably be standing right next to me today," said Chad Lozano, an Army veteran who lost his sister to an opioid overdose.

Lozano uses medical cannabis to treat PTSD and said he does not believe Gallagher is taking the data and research into consideration.

"Her reasoning isn't really fact-based,” Lozano said. “It's more politically-based.”

Nearly 50,000 New Mexicans have medical marijuana cards. There are 21 conditions on the list that allow patients to get one, including PTSD and chronic pain.

"It seems very strange that something as important as opioid dependence treatment should not be included in the list of eligible conditions," said Steve Jenison, the former medical director of the Medical Cannabis Program.

Jessica Gelay with the Drug Policy Alliance said the Gallagher will receive the notes on Friday’s meeting in the next few weeks. In a statement emailed to KOB, Health Department spokesman Paul Rhien said the following:

Secretary Gallagher considered a similar proposal earlier this year. As opiate use and dependence are serious issues and are of continuous concern in New Mexico, this is not a decision she has taken lightly. 

While there have been anecdotal reports of some individuals using cannabis to curb opiate addiction, there is little if any medical and scientific evidence or research on the effective use of cannabis for opiate use disorder.   

All of the medicinal uses for cannabis currently accepted for treatment by the Medical Cannabis Program have all been supported by high-quality evidence. This is not the case with opiate addiction. Further, there already exists successful medically assisted treatments such as use of buprenorphine and methadone, which are considered best-practice methods and are supported by medical evidence.     

The Medical Cannabis Advisory Board is comprised of board-certified medical specialists who bring with them a wealth of knowledge and expertise regarding medical conditions and their treatments. Secretary Gallagher has asked the board to emphasize the strengths and weaknesses of each petition they review and to highlight the medical and scientific evidence behind each petition when submitting their future recommendations.

There is no set timeline in which the secretary is required to respond in. Last year, it took her more than six months to decide not to sign it. The group can re-petition every six months after a decision is announced.

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Morgan Aguilar

Copyright 2017 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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