“Michigan lost 2,126 individuals to opioid overdoses in the last year. If we consider the research which supports an up to 25% decrease in medical cannabis states, an additional 531 individuals could have been victims if it were not for the state’s medical cannabis program.” – Americans for Safe Access
by Rick Thompson/December 9, 2017
Americans for Safe Access, a national medical marijuana patient advocacy group, on Thursday released a paper on the opioid crisis and how cannabis medicines can help break the addiction cycle in prescription pain medication abuse. The paper uses Michigan as a case study of the effectiveness of the state’s medical marijuana program in diminishing the deaths and hospitalizations reported.
According to the document, based on national statistics Michigan’s medical marijuana program resulted in 531 lives saved and 23% fewer hospitalizations in Michigan from opioid exposure. The paper is titled “Medical Cannabis as a Tool to Combat Pain and the Opioid Crisis: A Blueprint for State Policy” and was announced via a press release. The blueprint reports that states with medical marijuana programs see a 25% reduction in opioid deaths, and in Michigan that math yields a life-saving total of 531 people.
“Research shows that opioid deaths have decreased in states with medical cannabis laws by as much as 25% and has found a 23% reduction in hospitalizations related to opioid dependence or abuse,” the blueprint states, citing published research from the Journal of the American Medical Association and Drug and Alcohol Dependence magazine. “Michigan lost 2,126 individuals to opioid overdoses in the last year. If we consider the research which supports an up to 25% decrease in medical cannabis states, an additional 531 individuals could have been victims if it were not for the state’s medical cannabis program.”
The blueprint’s intent is to inspire change in state medical marijuana programs which increase enrollment. Michigan already has the nation’s second largest population of registered cannabis patients, with more than a quarter-million Michiganders enrolled in the state database.
There are more than 5 million Michigan residents who are prevented from registering to use medicinal cannabis, and that’s a problem, per the blueprint. That includes more than 1.5 million people living in poverty who cannot afford the registration or the medicine; over 2.6 million people whose employers test for drugs and have no exemption for medicinal cannabis patients; 33,000 living in hospice and 45,000 living in assisted living situations which do not allow for cannabis consumption; 52,100 federal employees and 672,215 veterans who are prevented from accessing cannabis due to V.A. or federal anti-cannabis policies; over 91,000 who are homebound and cannot receive certifications or obtain medicine; and 3,342 ill individuals who are on organ transplant lists and risk losing their life-saving operations if found to have cannabis byproducts in their system.
ASA’s suggested response to the enrollment crisis contains action items for advocates and legislators, including:
- Pass laws allowing medical professionals to choose conditions or expressly allow pain and opioid use disorder to lists of “qualifying conditions.”
- Pass laws to allow hospice and assisted living facilities to become caregivers and allow medical cannabis use on these premises.
- Have the Department of Health & Board of Medicine notify medical professionals about Continuing Medical Education courses for cannabis science. Department of Health includes information about medical cannabis in all opioid crisis materials.
- Pass laws that have a high number of access points (dispensaries) and create incentives for communities that are licensing them.
- Create low-income and hardship waivers for ID costs.
- Pass laws and regulations that prevent shortages of medicinal cannabis.
- Pass laws banning drug testing for THC for employment.
- Create a Medical Cannabis Research and Development Fund.
Most of the improvements suggested in the ASA blueprint would be accomplished by the introduction and passage of legislation modifying the MMMA and other laws, which ASA has already drafted and included in the blueprint.
The international press release contained a quote from one of Michigan’s most beloved cannabis advocates, Jamie Lowell, who said, “Medical cannabis allowed me to wean myself off of opiates, and I’m hopeful that by introducing this model legislation, we can reduce some of the barriers to medical cannabis and help even more Michigan patients.”
“It has been nearly two months since President Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency. However, since this declaration, there has been no effort on the federal level to provide funds for this crisis,” said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access. “It is clear that states will have to take healthcare outcomes into their own hands.”
“I am excited to introduce this book to potential bill sponsors in my state,” said Lowell, who sits on the Board of Directors of the MILegalize 2018 organization. That group and the Committee to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol submitted last month over 360,000 signatures on petitions to put an adult use of cannabis proposal before Michigan voters in the 2018 general election.