New Mexico’s top health official has rejected state Medical Cannabis Advisory Board recommendations to add opiate dependence and Alzheimer’s disease to the list of conditions that qualify a person to legally buy medical marijuana.
State Health Secretary Lynn Gallagher rejected the recommendations on Wednesday. Gallagher said she’s concerned about opiate abuse both in New Mexico and across the U.S., but she isn’t certain whether cannabis would be a safe or effective treatment. She cited a lack of scientific research to support the argument that cannabis can offer relief from the pain and suffering of people struggling with opiate addiction.
She also cited a lack of scientific research about the effects of cannabis on people with dementia, or Alzheimer’s disease.
A Republican-sponsored House bill in this year’s legislative session that would have added opioid use disorder as a qualifying condition for the cannabis program passed both chambers of the Legislature, but Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed it.
The opiate recommendation would have allowed people addicted to heroin or narcotic painkillers to legally purchase marijuana.
Anita Briscoe, an Albuquerque-based psychiatric nurse practitioner who had proposed adding opioid use disorder to the Medical Cannabis Program, said she was disappointed with Gallagher’s decision.
“Opioid dependence can be addressed by cannabis,” Briscoe said. “And I feel like (Gallagher) didn’t look deeply enough in the research.”
Gallagher also rejected a recommendation that would have allowed doctors to use telemedicine to evaluate patients for certification in the cannabis program. She also declined to increase the number of marijuana plants nonprofit providers may grow.