This summer, New York decided to take a stand against the opiate epidemic that is crippling the region. Announced on June 18th, the state will adopt a regulatory amendment making "opioid use" a qualifying condition for the medical marijuana program.
"The opioid epidemic in New York State is an unprecedented crisis, and it is critical to ensure that providers have as many options as possible to treat patients in the most effective way.
As research indicates that marijuana can reduce the use of opioids, adding opioid use as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana has the potential to save countless lives across the state, " said New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker.
In the time period between 2010 and 2016, New York has seen a 180% increase in opioid deaths, climbing to over 3000 per year and has been unable to make any real progress in slowing down the trend.
On July 12th, 2018, the state announced "emergency filings" that also allowed any patient to use medical marijuana as a replacement for an opiate prescription, even if it is not for chronic pain. This is a major development because it significantly increases practitioners ability to prescribe marijuana in place of dangerous pills.
The last amendment adopted by the state, part of the same July 12th announcement, allows people in rehab for opiate addiction to use medical marijuana as part of their treatment. I believe this could be one of the most important decisions the state has made so far regarding its medical program, due to the thousands of people that have been unsuccessful in attempting to treat their addiction in traditional ways.
At the time of the first announcement (June 18th, 2018), the medical marijuana program had just shy of 60,000 registered patients (59,327). By the second announcement on July 12th, the program had already reached 62,256 patients, which the state hopes will grow significantly with the adoption of these new regulations.