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Colorado Places Bets On Medical Marijuana To Help Curb Opioid Problem

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Colorado passed a new law to help slow down the ongoing opioid epidemic in the United States. Instead of giving an opioid prescription, doctors can instead recommend the use of medical marijuana to alleviate symptoms of their conditions.   ( M. Maggs | Pixabay )

A bill that allows doctors to prescribe medical marijuana to patients instead of opioid has been signed into law in Colorado.

On Thursday, May 23, Governor Jared Polis signed Senate Bill 13, which aims to help curb opioid addiction. The law will be effective starting Aug. 12.

"Even in states with flourishing nonmedical cannabis markets, it is important to remember that thousands of people count on cannabis as a medicine," stated David Mangone of Americans for Safe Access, a group that lobbies for medical marijuana, in an interview with The Denver Post. Mangone predicted that the new law will reduce the number of people dying from an opioid overdose.

Colorado Gives Thumbs Up To Medical Marijuana

Under the new law, doctors can recommend medical marijuana to alleviate the symptoms of conditions for which opioids are prescribed to treat. Colorado already permits the use of medical marijuana to treat cancer, glaucoma, post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD, HIV and AIDS, and other conditions that cause seizures, nausea, and severe pain.

The law applies to adult and minor patients. However, people who are under the age of 18 must take medical marijuana in non-smokeable form, especially when using it in school grounds or in public transportation.

The House voted 47-16, passing the bill with the support of Democrats and some Republicans. In the Senate, only two conservatives voted against the bill: Republican Senators John Cooke of Greeley and Bob Gardner of Colorado Springs.

Medical Community Cautious Of New Medical Marijuana Law

The new law, however, draws concern from some members of the medical community. Stephanie Stewart, a physician who treats patients suffering from addiction, said that people might seek the use of marijuana instead of the treatment prescribed by their doctors.

"Our real concern is that a patient would go to a physician with a condition that has a medical treatment with evidence behind it, and then instead of that treatment, they would be recommended marijuana instead," she told The Denver Post. "This will substitute marijuana for an FDA-approved medication — something that's unregulated for something that's highly regulated."

People who support the new law argued that medical marijuana is a safer form of treatment that will limit the use of opioid, which, according to public health experts, have reached epidemic levels.

According to the Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention, in 2017, 68 percent of over 70,200 drug overdoses in the United States involved either precription or illegal opioids. On average, 130 Americans die from opioid overdose everyday.

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