Apr 27, 2016 9:45 AM

Maine to Consider Opiate Addiction Qualifying Condition for Medical Marijuana

On April 19, Maine witnessed the first formal hearing considering the possibility of adding opiate addiction to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana patients.

A group of Maine caregivers submitted a petition to the Department of Health and Human Services requesting the hearing on considering opiate addiction as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana use. The hearing, held on Tuesday, lasted more than three hours and took testimony from 30 medical marijuana caregivers and patients.

Currently, there are individuals, whose treatment for opiate addiction includes medical marijuana. However, as this condition is not considered to be a qualified one, patients have to bend the law by having another condition put in their marijuana medical card. Things are significantly easier for the people who live in other states, like California, which have less restrictive medical marijuana policies. Many patients already know how to get a medical marijuana card for other associated symptoms such as, for instance, chronic pain; this approach can be an option for people with opiate addiction. According to the statements of doctors, caregivers and patients medical marijuana use has already helped a lot of people. Unfortunately, the results of such treatment are not yet supported by valid scientific data.

Dr. Dustin Sulak, a Maine-based expert on medical marijuana, says that opiate addiction is one of the crucial health issues of today. The doctor stated that while medical marijuana may not be the ideal response to this problem, it is still worth considering.

While there is a great number of people, who advocate the idea of adding opiate addiction to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana use, there is still a number of doctors and caregivers, who do not support this idea. They consider using medical marijuana instead of opiates to be just a substitution of one drug for another and refer to the lack of scientific data that prove cannabis effectiveness and safety for this purpose. However, let us recall that cannabis cannot lead to overdose and death, while opiates can, and often do.

Nevertheless, according to the statistics, the states where medical marijuana is available witnessed a 25 percent decline in the number of overdoses caused by opiates. This is weak evidence of medical marijuana being an effective treatment for opiate addiction. Dustin Sulak says that every day the doctors face at least one person who treats opiate addiction with cannabis. Such patients say that they took a new lease of life. It seems like we should not be mindless of their experience.

Unfortunately, due to the federal government's policy, it is very hard for scientists to conduct a large-scale study of the prospects of marijuana use for opiate addiction. But we hope that the Maine Department of Health and Human services will seriously consider all pro et contra and that its decision will help many people with opiate addiction to go back to normal life. In 180 days, Main may become the first state to add opiate addiction to the list of the qualifying conditions under its state medical marijuana program. If not, the fight against opiate addiction will become much harder for hundreds if not thousands of people.

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