New York adds medical cannabis as opioid substitute; sales boost expected

New York regulators on Thursday approved medical marijuana as an alternative to opioids, a move expected to spur sales significantly in what’s been a highly regulated market.

The emergency rule announced by the State Department of Health is effective immediately.

The state said temporary ID cards would be available for certified patients so they could purchase MMJ more quickly.

The decision was expected. Last month, New York Health Commissioner Howard Zucker announced plans to develop such a measure, referring to research showing marijuana could reduce opioid use, dependency and overdose.

Marijuana Business Factbook 2018 projected before this recent development that MMJ sales in New York would reach $50 million to $70 million in 2018, up from an estimated $20 million to $40 million in 2017.

Stronger growth of New York’s MMJ program has been stymied by a ban on sales of smokable marijuana and most forms of edibles.

New York regulators said patients enrolled in a certified opioid treatment program would be able to use MMJ.

In addition, patients with severe pain that doesn’t meet the definition of chronic pain would be able to use medical marijuana as a replacement for opioids. Chronic pain already is one of New York’s qualifying conditions for medical marijuana.

As of Tuesday, there were 62,256 certified patients and 1,735 registered practitioners participating in New York’s MMJ program, according to the state.

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