Medical marijuana to be available as substitute to prescribed opioids

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D&C reporters Patti Singer and Sean Lahman answer questions about medical marijuana from our Facebook audience. Patti Singer, Sean Lahman, Virginia Butler

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Columbia Care makes nine products from their medical marijuana.(Photo: Tina MacIntyre-Yee/@tyee23/staff photographer)Buy Photo

ALBANY — New York will make those who have been prescribed opioids eligible for medical marijuana in a move to try to limit drug abuse.

State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said Monday the Health Department will expand the use of medical marijuana to be available as a substitute for an opioid prescription.

The goal, he said, would be to help reduce the number of patients who become addicted to opioids — such as OxyContin and Vicodin — after being prescribed them by a doctor for an ailment.

“What we are doing today is that we are finalizing regulations to include prescription opioids in our medical marijuana program under the Compassionate Care Act,” Zucker told reporters in Brooklyn.

“So we are moving forward on that, and we will do it for prescription opioids starting now.”

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The announcement is the latest step by the state Health Department to expand the availability of medical marijuana in non-smokeable forms after it was legalized in 2016.

The program initially struggled with low participation and limited availability.

The state has added chronic pain, for example, to the eligible conditions and expanded who can get licensed to prescribe medical marijuana to include nurse practitioners and physician assistants. 

The latest move, Zucker said, is to offer an alternative to opioid prescriptions.

“So that means if an

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