New York State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker to Allow Patients who are Prescribed Opioids to Access the State’s Medical Marijuana Program

Press Release June 18, 2018
Media Contact

Tony Newman 646-335-5384
Melissa Moore 646-470-2827

The New York State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker announced that patients who are prescribed opioids will have access to the state’s medical marijuana program.

There is a growing body of scientific literature suggesting that legal access to marijuana can reduce the use of opioids as well as opioid-related overdose deaths. As a recent journal article details, there are at least three major ways marijuana can play a role in reducing opioid use and misuse: as a treatment for chronic pain before turning to opioids; as part of an opioid reduction strategy for patients already using opioids; or in conjunction with methadone treatment to increase success rates. Additional research shows the potential for marijuana to help reduce opioid withdrawal symptoms and therefore help ease patients away from opioid use. Studies have shown that patients see marijuana as a viable alternative to prescription opioid pain medication, with fewer side effects and lower potential for problematic use.

Below is a statement from Melissa Moore, New York Deputy Director, Drug Policy Alliance Drug Policy Alliance.

“We applaud the announcement from New York State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker to allow patients who are prescribed opioids to access the state’s medical marijuana program.

“Clearly marijuana alone will not be the answer to New York’s problem with opioid misuse and overdose deaths, but available evidence indicates that it should be used with other harm reduction strategies (such as expanding naloxone access, establishing safer consumption sites, and the decriminalizing all substance use) as part of a necessarily diverse and innovative approach to this combatting this crisis.

“Research has shown that broader laws for marijuana access (i.e., those that covered more conditions and created easier patient access) were more likely to reduce overdose deaths. We urge New York State to move toward legalizing marijuana for adult use, as studies in other legal states have demonstrated that significant numbers of people were using marijuana obtained from the adult-use market to treat pain.”

Read the fact sheet about Marijuana and Opioids:

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