A Maryland lawmaker wants to curb the state’s opioid crisis with the help of medical marijuana.
Delegate Cheryl Glenn, D-Baltimore City, has pre-filed a bill in the statehouse that would allow doctors to recommend cannabis therapy to patients who are dealing with opioid abuse and addiction.
Glenn said the measure looks to improve upon Maryland’s existing medical cannabis program.
“We all understand the problems that exist right now with opioid abuse issues,” she said.
According to the latest figures from the Maryland Department of Health, opioid-related deaths in Maryland, during the first six months of the year, totaled 1,185. That number has increased each of the last eight years during the same respective time-period.
“I want to be able to provide patients who are in need, anything that can help them with their health issues and we know that medical marijuana should be on the table,” she said. “It's another tool in the tool belt."
Currently, under Maryland’s medical cannabis guidelines, qualifying medical conditions for a patient interested in medical cannabis therapy include anorexia, severe or chronic pain, seizures, glaucoma and post-traumatic stress disorder.
However, opioid addiction is not included on that list.
That reality has disappointed Maryland residents like Iggy Stefanski. The Glen Burnie resident and turned to cannabis while in the Navy to relieve his pain from Crohn’s disease.
"Went through a whole bunch of trial and error with a bunch of pharmaceuticals,” he said. “They kind of tore me up more than they helped me."
Along the way, Stefanski said he became addicted to opioids.
"It was a bad couple of years.”
However, he said cannabis once again came to his rescue.
“In essence, it was helping me get over the addiction to opioids,” he said.
Last year, Stefanski petitioned Maryland’s medical cannabis commission to include opioid addiction on its list of qualifying conditions. He said he was happy to see the effort would once again be discussed in Annapolis.
"It was pretty important, in my view, to get that added to the list,” he said. “That way people knew they could take this as a viable option."
Other states, like New Jersey, have already placed opioid addiction as a qualifying condition in their medical marijuana programs. The impact of medical marijuana on opioid abuse has also become a point of focus for many researchers as well.
Beth Wiese and Adrianne R. Wilson-Poe of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis recently conducted a study called “Emerging Evidence for Cannabis' Role in Opioid Use Disorder”.
While the study concluded there was compelling data on cannabis’ effect on opioid abuse, further exploration of the topic is needed.