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New Mexicans Propose Treating State’s Opioid Epidemic with Marijuana

NM Hemp

The death rate from overdoses in New Mexico is among the highest in the country. The state needs a new approach, and advocates for marijuana say legalization is a good place to start. Adding opioid addiction to the state’s list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana will be discussed by the Legislature’s Courts, Justice Committee and Corrections department this week.

Drug Policy Alliance supports this addition, according to Nonprofit Quarterly. Governor Susana Martinez vetoed efforts to add opioid addiction to the state’s qualifying conditions list. She says it’s the Medical Cannabis Program advisory board’s job to do that.

Emily Kaltenbach of the NM Drug Policy Alliance chapter said, “We all know that cannabis is a far less harmful drug. So, if [addicts are] on that road to recovery – becoming abstinent is very difficult for most people and relapse is very common – medical cannabis can help in that transition and reduce the chances of relapse.”She also said, “No one has ever died from an overdose from cannabis. But how many people have we seen die of an overdose from opiates? We should be supporting people who are choosing to use this in their recovery plan as they transition from dependency from opiates.”

Health Secretary Lynn Gallagher doesn’t have confidence that medical marijuana is a safe and effective option for opioid addiction. One of her concerns is “that utilizing one addictive substance to treat dependence on another without reliable medical evidence and human research studies is problematic at best considering our current opiate epidemic.”

Psychiatric nurse practitioner Anita Brisco proposed adding opioid addiction to the list. She’s frustrated with those that have been “working on it.”

Brisco said, “How many people have died I New Mexico …when [Gallagher] could have signed off on it and cannabis could have prevented overdose deaths?”

Brisco has no intentions on giving up. She plans to file a new petition with the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board, but Governor Martinez may continue to be a roadblock – at least for the last year of her term.

Brisco said, “What it’s going to take is a new governor.”