New Mexico, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania allow people with an opioid addiction to qualify for a medical marijuana card.
But many physicians and medical experts strongly oppose such policies, pointing out that science hasn’t yet shown that dispensary-bought marijuana can deliver the same pain-killing punch as a prescription drug, nor that it can help people kick an opioid addiction.
“We have given marijuana the status of medicine with none of the standards,” said Keith Humphreys, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University. Other medicines, he pointed out, must undergo rigorous clinical trials and win federal approval before being sold to patients.
Health care professionals can’t prescribe pot because the federal government classifies it as an illegal drug. But under 33 state medical marijuana laws, providers can verify that patients suffer from certain conditions, which allows patients to grow pot or buy it from a medical marijuana dispensary.
In states that allow both medical and recreational marijuana, the products are typically regulated separately, sold separately and taxed separately. In Colorado, medical marijuana patients can legally possess more cannabis than other adults, and the pot they buy is cheaper.
Severe or chronic pain are qualifying conditions for a marijuana card in almost all states with a medical marijuana program, according to the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that advocates for marijuana legalization. Colorado’s new laws allow doctors and other health professionals with prescribing power to recommend marijuana instead of opioids in all cases, including after a minor surgery.