New York Emergency Rule OKs Medical Marijuana as Opioid Alternative

In a move announced this afternoon, New York State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker filed emergency regulations adding any condition for which an opioid could be prescribed as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana.

The new rule opens up medical cannabis as an option for thousands of patients dealing with pain.

The new rule opens up medical cannabis as an option for thousands of patients dealing with pain, who might otherwise need to take opioid medications. Plans for the new rule were announced last month, but today’s news means the condition qualifies for medical marijuana immediately.

“Effective immediately,” Zucker’s office announced, “registered practitioners may certify patients to use medical marijuana as a replacement for opioids, provided that the precise underlying condition for which an opioid would otherwise be prescribed is stated on the patient’s certification. This allows patients with severe pain that doesn’t meet the definition of chronic pain to use medical marijuana as a replacement for opioids.”

The new rules also add opioid use disorder as a qualifying condition for medical cannabis. That will allow patients with opioid use disorder who are enrolled in a certified treatment program to use medical marijuana as an opioid replacement. Leafly has reported on a number of these treatments in previous articles, here and here.

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“Medical marijuana has been shown to be an effective treatment for pain that may also reduce the chance of opioid dependence,” Zucker said earlier today. “Adding opioid replacement as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana offers providers another treatment option, which is a critical step in combatting the deadly opioid epidemic affecting people across the state.”

In New York State, overdose deaths involving opioids increased by about 180 percent from 2010 (more than 1,000 deaths) to 2016 (more than 3,000 deaths).

The new rules go into effect immediately. The permanent regulations will be published in the New York State Register on August 1, 2018, and will be subject to a 60-day public comment period.

In addition, within the next week, certified patients and designated caregivers will be able to print temporary registry ID cards. This will allow them to purchase medical marijuana products more quickly after registering for the program. Patients may use the temporary registry ID card in conjunction with a government issued photo identification to purchase medical marijuana products from a registered organization’s dispensing facility. Prior to this enhancement to the Medical Marijuana Data Management System, it could take 7 to 10 days for patients and their caregivers to receive their registry identification cards after their registration was approved.

As of July 10, 2018, there were 62,256 certified patients and 1,735 registered practitioners participating in New York State’s medical marijuana program.

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