Can Medical Marijuana Help N.H. Fight the Opioid Crisis?

Jan 14, 2019

Credit VIA UFLEDU

Lawmakers will hear testimony Tuesday on a bill to add opioid addiction as a qualifying condition for access to the state's medical marijuana program.

It's the first time for the bill in New Hampshire, though it's been discussed in the past.

State Rep. Renny Cushing, a co-sponsor of the bill, said medical cannabis programs in other states have specifically added opioid use disorder as a qualifying condition

"One of the things that we've discovered as we've been delving into the questions relating to the use of cannabis is that rather than being a gateway drug to opioids, that marijuana in fact has proven to be an exit drug," said Cushing, who is also sponsoring a separate bill to legalize recreational marijuana for adults.

Opponents have argued that the middle of an opioid epidemic is now time to consider legalization or promoting cannabis as a means of treatment.

On Tuesday, the House Health and Human Services Committee will field testimony from a certified recovery support worker who is also in recovery for opioid use disorder. Cushing says the recovery worker will speak about his firsthand experiences with cannabis, as well as others in recovery using it for treatment purposes.

New Hampshire's medical marijuana law, officially known as the therapeutic cannabis program, was enacted in 2013. Legislators have made a number of updates to the law, including adding qualifying conditions.

According to the state's most recent status report, the program has 7,120 patients, 449 designated caregivers, and nearly 1, 000 certifying providers. 

The same House committee that will hear testimony on opioid addiction as a qualifying condition will consider bills to allow patients qualifying for medical cannabis to grow their own, and for expanded access to "alternative treatment centers."

Explore a map of the state's pot dispensaries: