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Bill would pit medical marijuana against opioids

Bill would pit medical marijuana against opioids

Bill would allow CBD oil to be used in place of opioid painkillers
Bill would pit medical marijuana against opioids
Republican Sen. George Amedore speaks at a press conference in the Capitol held by the Opioid and Heroin Addiction Task Force
Photographer: Jake Lahut/Gazette Reporter

ALBANY -- Sen. George Amedore introduced legislation Thursday that would allow medical marijuana to be used instead of opiates to treat chronic and episodic pain.

The co-chair of the Senate Task Force on Opioid and Heroin addiction said evidence is clear that marijuana is far less addictive and dangerous than opiate painkillers. 

“Being prescribed opiates brings [patients] back to that place, and we don’t want them to go back to that place of addiction,” Amedore said.

He and his fellow senators on the task force said the bill specifically allows the use of cannabidiol, also called CBD oil, in place of opiates, as CBD oil has been shown to treat pain without getting the user high. The bill does not allow for expanded use of marijuana's high-inducing THC compound.

Desarae Rouso-Little, 35, of Rensselaer said she is able to be fully functional when taking medicinal marijuana instead of opiates. At one point, she was taking the maximum dose for a fentanyl patch and was sleeping more than 14 hours a day. 

“I have my life back and am opiate-free,” Rouso-Little said to applause among those gathered to announce the proposed legislation in the Capitol. 

Amedore, R-Rotterdam, added there is a matching bill in the Assembly, sponsored by Richard Gottfried, D-Manhattan. The Senate bill was approved by the Health Committee hours after Thursday's press conference and was awaiting approval from the Finance Committee before going to the floor for a vote. 

The Senate is in limbo, as Sen. Tom Croci, R-Sayville, is out of the Capitol on duty for the Navy, leaving the conferences for both parties tied at 31-31. 

Vireo Health of NY, based in Johnstown, is one of 10 medical marijuana manufacturing firms licensed by the state. A spokesman for Vireo said the firm was reviewing the bill and could not comment on Thursday.

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