Colorado passed a new bill on Aug. 2, allowing doctors to recommend medical marijuana in place of opiods. Two other states, New York and Illinois, have already passed a similar law.
"It was designed to give physicians a legal, open option to discuss [medical marijuana use] with patients," state Rep. Edie Hooton, the bill's sponsor explained. "It normalizes the conversation around the issue."
Chronic and acute pain are already conditions that qualify for a medical marijuana card in Colorado. However, this new law allows doctors to recommend medical marijuana as an alternative to opiods for any medical condition. This includes post-operative patients and those struggling with pain from an injury.
In January, Illinois launched its Opiod Alternative Pilot Program. The program now has over 2,000 patients. Conny Mueller Moody, deputy director for the Office of Health Promotion at the Illinois Department of Public Health explained that the program was designed to offer patients an alternative for their pain with their long-term goal of reducing deaths from opiods in Illinois.
Marijuana may be a safer alternative as there is a reduced risk of addiction.
Some people are concerned that doctors may prescribe medical marijuana when a different medication may actually be the better choice.
"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 recommend marijuana instead," a physician in Aurora, CO explained.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 130 people die from opiod overdose a day in the US. This new law may help keep patients from becoming dependent on opiods.
Hooten explained that the bill wasn't created to fix the opiod problem in Colorado, like the bill in Illinois. Nonetheless, some supporters believe the new option could assist in lessening opiod addiction and overdose fatalities.
"We want to give folks a legitimate alternative," said Amanda Bent, former policy manager with the Colorado Office of the Drug Policy Alliance.
Opiod abuse is at an all time high as it's the main medication prescribed for mild to severe pain. It's refreshing to see opiod alternatives like marijuana becoming available for patients.
PHOTO CRED. leafly.com