July 12, 2018, Hawaii
Nearly six months ago, the lawmakers in Hawaii approved the bill SB 2407 with an overwhelming majority. The bill was about allowing the opioid and other substance abuse victims to use medical cannabis in the light of ongoing crisis swayed the entire country. But it seems like governor David Ige doesn’t approve of the idea. In late June, he had hinted about vetoing the bill and eventually he did it on Tuesday, returning the bill to the legislature.
Medical Cannabis to Treat Opioid Addiction
Opioid epidemic has engulfed the entire country in some recent years. Annually thousands of people are dying due to opioid overdose. A few months ago, the federal government declared the opioid crisis as a national emergency.
It has been widely reported that medical marijuana helps people who are reeling from opioid side effects and withdrawals. This is the reason why cannabis activists have been pushing in every legal state to add opioid addiction in the list of qualifying conditions. New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York have already made opioid treatment part of their MMJ programs.
When the Hawaii legislature approved the bill SB 2407, cannabis activists were hopeful that the state would also become a jurisdiction where opioid addicts can alleviate their condition with the administration of marijuana through doctor’s prescription.
When Governor revealed his intention to veto the bill, local lawmakers and activists pushed him to reconsider his decision. Two lawmakers Tulsi Gabbard and Colleen Hanabusa plead the governor to not veto the bill. They termed the bill a matter of life or death and talked about its prospect to save precious lives.
Although opioid is now considered a national health issue, but Hawaii has always been less affected by the epidemic as compared to other parts of the country. According to the statistics from the last year, opioid-related deaths in Hawaii are less than half the national average. It has also the lowest opioid prescription rates in the country. Nevertheless, analysis of previous health records shows that opioid-related deaths in the state are gradually increasing.
It is still up for debate whether the use of medical marijuana actually helps in reducing opioid abuse. The encouraging results from Pennsylvania and New Jersey highlight the effectiveness of MMJ against opioid abuse. As cited by House Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, both the states have experienced 20 percent decrease in opioid-related deaths as well as the addiction rates. The University of Georgia has also conducted a research on the connection between opioid addiction and marijuana use. The study has concluded that the increased availability of marijuana has actually resulted in cutting down the number of opioid prescriptions in the given area.
It is also worth mentioning that why Governor David Ige vetoed the SB 2407. Gov. Ige thinks that the inclusion of any medical condition to the qualifying list should be carried out through a due process. The state’s department of health annually reviews the list and that’s the right platform to discuss this measure, according to Ige.