Providence

Business proposes medical marijuana be utilized to treat opioid addiction

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A local business is proposing that those struggling with opioid addiction should be allowed to utilize medical marijuana as a form of treatment.

B & B Consulting, a medical marijuana evaluation center in Warwick, is looking to add opioid dependency to the list of conditions that can be treated through the use of medical marijuana.

The company argues that 65% of older adult medical marijuana users say it significantly decreases their chronic pain and dependency on opioids.

A hearing was held Wednesday at the Department of Health to discuss the matter. A mixture of more than 40 supporters and opponents of the proposal testified in front of health department officials.

Executive Director of the Rhode Island User's Union Michael Galipeau said utilizing medical marijuana to combat his addiction changed his life.

"As a patient since 2006, I have successfully not only used cannabis to come off of benzodiazepines, traditional opiates for pain management, alcohol and tobacco," Galipeau said. "I've been able to remove all of these things from a problematic state in my life and to bring my life into balance."

Those who disagree with the proposal believe it will have the opposite effect onthose struggling with addiction.

"Many patients with opiate use disorder are on medication-assisted therapy, and if they add marijuana to that, then once people looked at that, they don't do as well," Consultant in addiction medicine John Femino said. "They start abusing the opiates that are being prescribed for them, they relapse, they have difficulties."

For those who cannot attend the hearing, comments may be handwritten and delivered to the Department of Health or emailed in before 5 p.m. Wednesday to paula.pullano@health.ri.gov.

In Rhode Island, seizures, chronic pain and cancer are among the conditions that can be treated with medical marijuana.

"We're going to pull in a lot of perspectives, a lot of opinions, a lot of background, a lot of research before ultimately making the decision," Department of Health Spokesperson Joseph Wendelken said.

New York, Illinois and Pennsylvania are the only other states to allow medical marijuana as a treatment for opioid addiction.

B&B Consulting submitted the proposal back in October, giving the health department 180 days to make a decision. The decision should come sometime before mid-April.


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