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Could Rampant Opioid Abuse Be Solved With … MORE Weed?

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Advocates of recreational marijuana legalization are urging lawmakers in New York to consider shifting their stance on the issue in the wake of spiking heroin deaths across the state.

A group of activists arrived Tuesday in Buffalo to raise awareness of a bill currently under consideration in the state legislature. The proposal calls for allowing anyone 18 years and older to possess up to two ounces of marijuana and grow up to six marijuana plants on personal property. The group, NY Grows, wants New York to be the ninth state to legalize recreational marijuana in part to help fight opioid and heroin abuse, despite little support for the issue in the legislature, reports Buffalo News.

Many health professionals in states that recently legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use are excited about the possibilities weed offers patients currently taking prescription opioids.

“If marijuana has been proven in states that have medical marijuana to counteract opioid use, then I don’t see why it wouldn’t be any different if people could buy it without a prescription,” Nicolas Eyle, a board member of NY Grows, told Buffalo News. “If you could just go buy it, it would solve a lot of problems.”

New York experienced a 135.7 percent increase in synthetic opioid and heroin deaths between 2014 and 2015, one of the largest increases for a state. It is followed closely by Connecticut, which experienced a 125.9 percent increase over the same time. Connecticut is currently conducting two studies, one with federal funds and another at the state level, investigating marijuana’s potential benefit as an alternative painkiller in light of the opioid epidemic.

Researchers from the University of British Columbia studied the relationship between marijuana-use and mental health and tested its interaction with different illnesses. The findings, published in Clinical Psychology Review in November, suggest marijuana is a helpful tool for those suffering addictions to more harmful substances, like prescription painkillers.

A separate study conducted by Dr. Daniel Clauw, a professor at the University of Michigan, found that patients who were treated for chronic pain with both opioids and marijuana eventually pivot towards higher levels of weed consumption.

“They noted on average a two-thirds decrease in their opioid dose,” Clauw told NPR. “They also noted that they just felt a lot better overall with respect to side-effect profile when their pain was being controlled largely with cannabinoids.”

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