Medical marijuana may help opioid addiction, Nevada lawmakers told

Sen. Pat Spearman, D-North Las Vegas, testified on Wednesday the legal reasons for a medical marijuana card should be expanded to include its affects on opioid addiction.

Senate Bill 228 would do just that because, she said, there’s anecdotal evidence marijuana helps those taking pain killers to reduce their use of opiates while still controlling their pain.

She said the bill also would expand the list of medical professionals who would be allowed to make the “recommendation” the patient uses to obtain a medical marijuana card beyond just a medical doctor.

Sen. Aaron Ford, D-Las Vegas, agreed, saying that list should include all those medical professionals who are currently allowed to sign prescriptions.

Spearman said counselors, advanced practice nurses, physician’s assistants and others along with clinical social workers see those patients suffering chronic pain.

“What we’re talking about here is providing more tools in the tool box,” she said. “Whatever is medically effective, we have to make sure it’s available.”

Spearman, a veteran, said many of those suffering chronic pain suffered those injuries while in the military and providing an alternative to opiates and the addiction they bring is important. Anesthesiologist Sean Dempsey of Las Vegas was joined by several other doctors in also calling for more research into the medical properties of marijuana. All pointed out since the Drug Enforcement Administration lists marijuana as having no medical uses, doctors can’t even do that research to test its qualities.

While the Nevada State Medical Association opposes the bill, spokesman Catherine O’Mara said they too want more research. She said there’s not enough research at this point to support a conclusion medical marijuana helps with opiate addiction and no evidence it counteracts pain.

“The AMA position is strongly in favor of more research,” she said adding SB228 should be converted into a research bill.

Spearman said opiate overdose is responsible for upward of 400 deaths a year in Nevada and if marijuana helps reduce addiction and deaths, it should be added to the list of conditions that qualify for a medical marijuana card.

“Unless we have evidence marijuana is destructive, then this will make it better,” said Spearman. “Consider this a possibility.”


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