SANTA FE, NM — On Friday, September 7th, the New Mexico Department of Health announced that Secretary Lynn Gallagher would not allow people suffering from opioid use disorder (OUD) to qualify for medical cannabis in New Mexico.
This is the second time the Medical Advisory Board’s (MAB) recommendation to add opioid use disorder was denied; the first time was in 2017. That year the NM Legislature also voted to approve adding opioid use disorder as a qualifying condition for medical cannabis, and sent a bill (HB 527) to Governor Martinez in 2017, but the bill was vetoed.
The Secretary also declined to add several other medical conditions that the Board recommended from the November 2017 meeting including muscular dystrophy, substance use disorder, eczema and psoriasis and Tourette’s syndrome.
Medical Advisory Board members are nationally board certified medical doctors who are appointed by the Governor and lend their service in a voluntary capacity.
Cannabis helps reduce opioid withdrawal symptoms, like nausea and insomnia; it promotes restful sleep and helps reduce the intensity of cravings. People receiving medication for OUD have been shown to have better treatment outcomes when they are also able to access medical cannabis. In New Mexico in 2017 more than 500 people died of an opioid drug overdose.
“We lose one or two New Mexicans to overdose every single day. The Secretary’s failure to add this condition is discriminatory and stigmatizing for people suffering from opioid and other substance use disorders” said Jessica Gelay, Policy Manager, with Drug Policy Alliance. “It’s well known that New Mexico needs more options to support people suffering from problematic opioid use. This decision means that medical cannabis, a legitimate option to support symptoms related to OUD and withdrawal from opioids continues to be out of reach. I am hopeful that under a new administration science and compassion will prevail.”
In 2018 both houses of the NM Legislature passed memorials urging the Secretary of Health to add OUD as a qualifying condition. Sponsors of the measures shared these comments:
“I’m extremely disappointed that the Administration has once again failed to listen to the experts to allow the use of medical cannabis to treat opioid use disorder. In the heart of the opioid abuse epidemic it’s critical we use every tool available to save lives,” said Senator Jeff Steinborn.
“I’m terribly disappointed in Secretary Gallagher’s recent decision. This means that more people will suffer and some will die, without this viable alternative to Opioid use. Her decision has real life consequences,” said Representative Joanne Ferrary.