Friday Press Conference: New Mexico Dept. of Health to Consider Petition to Add Opioid Use Disorder to Conditions Allowed for Medical Cannabis Access

Press Release November 1, 2017
Media Contact

Tony Newman 646-335-5384
Jessica Gelay 505-573-4422

SANTA FE – On Friday, November 3rd, New Mexicans will come together to urge the NM Department of Health to add opioid use disorder (OUD) as a qualifying condition for medical cannabis in the state.

The petition will be considered at the public meeting of the NM Dept. of Health Medical Cannabis Advisory Board at 1190 S. St. Francis Drive in Santa Fe at 10am. There will be a press conference at 9:30am just prior to the meeting.

Cannabis helps reduce opioid withdrawal symptoms, like nausea and insomnia; it promotes restful sleep and helps reduce the intensity of cravings. People receiving medication for OUD have been shown to have better treatment outcomes when they are also able to access medical cannabis.

More than twenty medical practitioners and health professionals have added their names to a petition to Sec. Gallagher calling for OUD to be made a condition eligible for medical cannabis. And more than 1,300 New Mexicans have signed a community letter urging the same. The Drug Policy Alliance will deliver both letters to the Department at the hearing.

The petition to add OUD was brought by retired clinician Anita Briscoe, M.S., A.P.R.N.-B.C., and builds on a similar petition she submitted in 2016, which the Medical Advisory Board voted (5-1) to recommend for approval by the Department. The NM Legislature also recognizes the importance of expanding the program to serve people suffering from addiction, and passed legislation that would have added OUD to the list of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis in the 2017 Legislative Session.

WHAT: Press conference addressing the need to expand medical cannabis access to New Mexicans diagnosed with opioid use disorder to prevent more deaths.

WHO: The Drug Policy Alliance, medical professionals, people in recovery from addiction, and people who have lost loved ones to opioid overdoses.


WHEN: 9:30AM, Friday, November 3rd

WHERE: Harold Runnels Building, Top of the Stairs near the North entrance

“New Mexicans die every single day from opioid overdoses, and we could save lives simply by adding one line to the Health Department regulations to make opioid use disorder a qualifying condition for medical cannabis,” said Jessica Gelay, policy manager with the Drug Policy Alliance. “We know that we need more responses to address the opioid overdose epidemic in New Mexico and nationwide. The goal here is to save lives unnecessarily lost; medical cannabis is a harm reduction tool that New Mexicans with opioid addiction issues desperately need.”

“I was compelled by reports from multiple patients who said that medical cannabis helped them kick their heroin or prescription opioid habit,” said petitioner Anita Briscoe of Taos. “Growing up in Española I’ve seen the devastating toll opioid misuse have on individuals and families, and in my experience as a clinician I have witnessed the benefits of access to medical cannabis for people suffering from addiction. I want to heal my town.”

“It is time for New Mexico to move boldly and compassionately again by adding opioid dependence to the list of conditions eligible for medical cannabis. It is supported by pre-clinical data, by a preponderance of reports by patients and practitioners and by emerging human clinical data,” said Steve Jenison, retired medical doctor and former medical director of the NM Medical Cannabis Program of Dixon. “In this time of crisis, with so many lives being lost and destroyed, we must not be dissuaded from acting when there is so much at stake.”

“I watch our clients who struggle with opioid addiction benefit from being able to access medical cannabis,” said Michael DeBernardi, Director of Behavioral Health for the Life Link in Santa Fe. “A lot of our clients fear the symptoms of withdrawal. Medical cannabis decreases the symptoms of withdrawal. We have found using cannabis to be an extremely effective harm reduction tool against opioid addiction for our clients.”

“I had been in recovery from alcohol and illicit drugs for five years, but after a severely injured foot, a botched surgery and the death of my mother I was really put to the test and at risk of relapsing into addiction,” said Lauren Levis of Santa Fe. “Within three months of receiving my medical cannabis license, I was completely off opiates and regained control of my life, free from dependence and addiction.”

“Medical cannabis helped me get past my dependence on opioids,” said Tony Johnson of Albuquerque. “I became dependent on opioids after I was seriously injured and when the prescriptions became too expensive I found them on the street. I’m lucky to be alive and I’m grateful that I had a condition that allowed me to legally access medical cannabis.”

“My grandson lost his father to an opioid overdose,” said Tricia Monaghan of Albuquerque. “His loss is tragic, unfair and preventable.. We need more tools to combat this crisis. Access to medical cannabis is one tool that should be available now.”

“My sister was a military veteran, like me, and she used opioid medicine to lessen her pain,” said Chad Lozano of Las Cruces. “She died from an opioid overdose seven years ago. She was never able to qualify for medical cannabis. If she had, she might have been standing here today.”

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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