In an effort to combat the nation’s opioid abuse epidemic and provide citizens with non-addictive tools to fight chronic pain, the New York Department Of Health has amended the Empire State’s medical marijuana program to include opioid prescription replacement and painkiller abuse as qualifying conditions to access legal weed.
The new rules, effective immediately, were added as emergency regulations, pushed forward by New York Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. The anti-opioid measures were first introduced last month, and traditional bureaucratic practices would have delayed implementation until August. Bypassing those expected channels, the Department of Health intends to enact the policy change as soon as possible.
“Medical marijuana has been shown to be an effective treatment for pain that may also reduce the chance of opioid dependence,” Dr. Zucker detailed in a press release announcing the emergency regulations. In the years since, Empire State lawmakers and advocates have pushed to expand the program, with a number of high-profile politicians now pushing to legalize the plant for recreational use, too.
In the meantime the addition of opioid-related qualifying conditions will theoretically open access to medical cannabis to thousands upon thousands of New Yorkers.
New York’s amended medical marijuana rules will become official at the end of the month, on August 1st, where they will then be subject to a 60-day public comment period.