Press Conference Today: New Mexico Legislature Pushes Dept. of Health to Add Opioid Use Disorder to Conditions Allowed for Medical Cannabis Access

Press Release February 12, 2018
Media Contact

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

SANTA FE – Today, Monday, February 12th, Senator Jeff Steinborn (D – Las Cruces), and Representatives Joanne Ferrary (D – Las Cruces) will host a press conference for SM 110 and HM 67 “Medical Marijuana for Opioid Use Disorder.

Sen. Steinborn and Rep. Ferrary are joined by a bi-partisan team of 18 legislative co-sponsors including, Senate President Pro-Tempore Mary Kay Papen, Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, Senate Majority Whip Mimi Stewart, the Chair of the House Health & Human Services Committee Deborah Armstrong, the Chair of House Labor and Economic Development Committee Bill McCamley, and the Vice-Chair of House State Government, Indian and Veterans Affairs Committee Rudy Martinez.

The sponsors are holding a press conference on the importance of Senate Memorial 110, and House Memorial 67, which request NM Sec. of Health, Lynn Gallagher, add opioid use disorder (OUD) as a qualifying condition for the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program.

HM 67 passed with unanimous support from the House Health and Human Services Committee on Friday, Feb. 9th and goes to the House Floor for a final vote Monday.

New Mexico has long suffered from some of the highest rates of opioid overdose deaths, and problematic opioid use, and while rates have not risen in the last few years, they have also not gone down. 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. It is supported by pre-clinical data, by a preponderance of reports by patients and practitioners and by emerging human clinical data.

Health professionals across the state who work with people dependent on / addicted to opioids agree that this is a practical expansion for medical cannabis in New Mexico that will save lives. More than twenty-five medical practitioners and health professionals added their names to the petition to Sec. Gallagher calling for OUD to be made a condition eligible for medical cannabis in 2017, along with 1,300 New Mexicans who signed a community letter urging the same.

This is not the first time this matter has been considered in the state. The New Mexico Medical Cannabis Advisory Board, which is tasked by the state to provide guiding input to the Sec. of Health regarding eligible conditions for medical cannabis, voted twice, in 2016 and 2017, to recommend adding OUD to the list of qualifying conditions.

In 2017, the New Mexico Legislature passed a bill, HB 527 (Gentry) that would have added OUD to the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act in statute, but the measure was vetoed by the Governor. Also last year, the Interim Legislative Health and Human Services Committee unanimously endorsed supporting expanding the list of medical conditions to include OUD as an eligible diagnosis.

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

WHO: New Mexico Lawmakers, New Mexicans with experience in treatment and in recovery from addiction / dependence on opioids, the Drug Policy Alliance


WHEN: 11:00AM, Monday, February 12th

WHERE: New Mexico Roundhouse – Capitol Room 318

“It is long overdue for New Mexico’s Secretary of Health to take action to permit compassionate and proven, effective therapeutic treatment of opioid addiction with medical cannabis,” said Senator Steinborn, sponsor of Senate Memorial 110. “Lives are being lost in our state every day that passes. Thousands of our neighbors and relatives are suffering, and so are families and communities. The time to act in now.”

“This is a common sense step to addressing the opioid epidemic. Opioid use disorder often goes untreated, because medication assisted treatment is not accessible to many residents in my district, and especially those living in rural areas of the state. This proposal would ensure expanded access to effective treatment.” said Representative Ferrary.

“I was compelled by reports from multiple patients who said that medical cannabis helped them kick their heroin or prescription opioid habit,” said retired clinician 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.”

“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.”

“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 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.” (Lauren will not be at the press conference, but is available to speak to journalists by phone.)

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

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