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Opioid Addiction Is Now A Medical Marijuana Qualifying Condition In New Jersey

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People suffering from opioid addiction now qualify for medical marijuana in New Jersey.

Gov. Phil Murphy (D) made the announcement on Wednesday as he unveiled several other initiatives aimed at mitigating the state’s opioid crisis. For example, regulators will also eliminate the prior authorization requirement for Medicaid recipients to receive medication-assisted treatment (MAT).

The state Department of Health said physicians may begin recommending cannabis for opioid addiction immediately.

“We are pleased to announce that, as of today, opioid use disorder is a condition for which physicians can recommend medical marijuana to patients,” Dr. Shereef Elnahal, the state health commissioner, said in a press release. “We are also taking steps to ensure that these patients will be on MAT for their addiction, in addition to marijuana.”

Previously, individuals addicted to opioids could only qualify for medical cannabis if they became dependent while attempting to treat chronic pain caused by a musculoskeletal disorder.

The health department announced that it was exploring adding opioid addiction to the list of qualifying conditions in October. Elnahal said at the time that physicians “should consider marijuana as another appropriate treatment for patients with many medical conditions, especially diseases for which conventional therapies aren’t working for their patients.”

The development comes as Murphy and legislative leaders seem to be at an impasse over provisions of a proposal to more broadly legalize marijuana for recreational use.

While legislative committees approved a legalization bill late last year, leaders have not brought the measure to the floor of either chamber in light of disagreements with the governor. At issue is the proposed tax rate for retail cannabis sales, as well as how the industry would be regulated.

Sources told NJ.com that talks on marijuana reform have stalled, but advocates hope that the issue will be worked out soon.

“I still believe we can make progress on this,” Murphy said earlier this week. “To be determined.”

Meanwhile, neighboring New York, which is also considering adult-use marijuana legalization this year, recently moved to allow patients who would normally be prescribed opioids for any condition to use medical cannabis instead.

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Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Sacramento-based senior editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

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