A woman holds a bottle of prescription painkillers. Opiate addiction is a serious issue and has become a leading cause of death among addicts.

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New Mexico Advisory Board Votes ‘Yes’ on Treating Opioid Addiction with MMJ

New Mexico’s Medical Advisory Board has voted 5-1 to add “opioid use disorder” to the list of conditions approved for access to the state’s medicinal cannabis program, according to a report by the Santa Fe New Mexican. The lone dissenting vote was cast by the Board’s chairman Dr. Mitch Simson, who said he was concerned about substituting one addiction for another.

The plan was supported by health professionals, addiction specialists, and lawmakers who attended the meeting of the Advisory Board last week. Board member Dr. Laura Brown, who works at the Santa Fe Addiction Center, told her colleagues that among her patients battling opiate addiction the ones “who are using cannabis are doing better than those who are not.”

Anita Briscoe, the nurse who proposed the measure to the board, indicated that about 25 percent of her patients addicted to opioids have told her that cannabis stems their craving and relieves their pain. Three of her colleagues who certify patients under the medical cannabis program estimated that they have seen roughly 400 patients use cannabis to help break their opioid addiction. Briscoe provided board members with 21 pages of research, including articles from the American Medical Associates, the American Journal of Public Health, and the American Journal of Addiction to back up her anecdotes.

“Just imagine if [addicts] had access to cannabis and were able to kick their habits, how our state would change for the better,” she said during her appearance in front of the board. “Crime would go down, health care costs would diminish, overdose deaths would fall, and it would help our economy to flourish. Without the familial crisis of opiate dependence, New Mexico’s children would also be safer, families would be more stable.”

State Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, and Rep. Deborah Armstrong, both Democrats, also submitted letters backing the proposal.

During the meeting, the Advisory Board also voted to allow Alzheimer’s disease to the qualifying condition list, allow patients to be certified under the program via telemedicine — to help rural New Mexicans gain access to the program — and to raise the cap on the number of growers permitted under the program. They also tabled proposals that would add autism, attention deficit disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

State Health Secretary-designate Lynn Gallagher must sign off on any new qualifying conditions before they would be permitted for medical cannabis therapies.

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