Could medical pot solve opioid crisis?

Posted at 7:37 PM, May 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-18 19:37:39-04

As Ohio lawmakers consider legislation that would legalize medical marijuana, some studies suggest that access to medical cannabis could help reduce the rising number of opioid overdose deaths. 

Legislators passed House Bill 523 last week, which would create a medical marijuana program in Ohio. 

Some lawmakers noted studies that point to the medical benefits of the marijuana, as well as marijuana’s impact on opioid-related overdose deaths. 

A 2014 JAMA Internal Medicine study found that states with legal medical cannabis experienced a 25 percent drop in opioid overdose deaths after legalization. 

“I do think medical cannabis is a better alternative,” said Dr. Kevin Hill, assistant professor of psychiatry at McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School.

Hill said that when it comes to pain management, marijuana is safer and could possibly lead to a reduction in opioid usage for Ohio patients. 

But he said the key to a medical marijuana bill in Ohio is proper regulation. 

Meanwhile, Phillip Coe, a Chemical Dependency Counselor at Moore Counseling & Mediation, told that he’s cautious about labeling marijuana as an antidote to the heroin problem. 

“We should be careful trying to replace one drug for another,” Coe said. 

He argues that most of his heroin patients started by using marijuana and then moved on to harder drugs. 

“Just like any other drug it can become addictive,” he said.  

On Tuesday, a senate panel discussed changes to the language in the medical marijuana bill in part of a fast-tracked effort to approve the proposal before a ballot issue can be voted on in November.