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New Jersey to Allow Medical Marijuana for Opioid Addiction Treatment

Plus: A look at other states changing the way cannabis and MAT are accessed for those with OUD.

New Jersey residents undergoing treatment for opioid addiction will now be allowed to use medical marijuana as part of their treatment plan, effective immediately, due to changes implemented by Governor Phil Murphy.1 In addition, Gov. Murphy announced that starting in April 2019, the state’s Medicaid program will end its policy of requiring prior authorization for medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder (OUD).

According to officials, all residential treatment facilities in New Jersey paid by Medicaid must offer MAT starting in July 2019. The state will start rolling out patients suffering from OUD to enroll in the state's medical marijuana program in conjunction with MAT. Previously, only patients suffering from chronic pain, migraine, and other conditions were eligible to enroll in the state’s medical marijuana program.

New Jersey becomes the third state to allow medical marijuana treatment for opioid use disorder. (Source: 123RF)

Prior Medicaid authorizations have been a barrier to some, according to Gov. Murphy in an announcement made at Cooper University Health Care, in Camden, NJ. “Removing unnecessary barriers to MAT is the right thing both for patients and providers,” Murphy said in his announcement. He added that Medicaid recipients nationally make up an estimated 40% of opioid addiction patients.

In other efforts, NJ Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson announced that her department would train more doctors to provide MAT for opioid addiction, create new Medicaid reimbursement incentives to encourage such treatment, and establish a “Centers of Excellence” for opioid treatment at both Rutgers and Rowan Universities.

Read a commentary by Jeff Gudin, MD, on these legal changes.

 

Which States are Expanding Medical Marijuana Use?

New Jersey follows Pennsylvania in its actions and several other states may soon follow suit and allow OUD to be a qualifying condition as part of their respective programs; here is what a few states are doing now:

  • Pennsylvania: In April 2018,2 the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Advisory Board recommended that medical marijuana be considered for opioid addiction therapy and opioid reduction.  The state now includes OUD as a qualifying condition for medical cannabis.  In July 2018, the state funded eight state universities to conduct medical marijuana research to improve understanding and awareness of opioid addiction.3
  • Ohio: The state’s Medical Board has recently accepted petitions on adding qualifying conditions for doctors to recommend medical marijuana treatment, including opioid use disorder, through the end of 2018, with a decision to be made later in 2019.5
  • Maine: In January 2016, a petition submitted to the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Program encouraged adding opioid addiction to qualify for medical marijuana. Upon further review, the state’s Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee could not conclude that the use of medical marijuana for opioid addiction was safe and the petition was denied. Efforts to add OUD to the list of qualifying conditions are continuing in the state’s legislature.6
  • New Mexico: In 2017, New Mexico included the addition of OUD to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana, however, Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed the measure, noting that the addition of OUD as a qualifying condition was problematic since “the bill does not define what ‘treatment’ for opioid dependence entails.” In November 2017, the state’s Medical Cannabis Advisory Board recommended the addition of OUD as a qualifying condition again for medical marijuana use, and the measure is now in the hands of the state’s health secretary. Meanwhile, legislature memorials have been introduced in each chamber in support of allowing medical cannabis use for OUD, with lack of access to MAT as one of the stated reasons.6
  • New York: In June 2018, New York expanded its opioid replacement program, allowing "any condition for which an opioid could be prescribed as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana" use . According to a release,4 the New York Department of Health made additional improvements to its program, including adopting new regulations, authorizing five additional registered organizations to manufacture and dispense medical cannabis, adding chronic pain and PTSD as qualifying conditions for its use, permitting home delivery, and empowering nurse practitioners and physician assistants to certify patients for its use.
  • Arizona: A bill to allow medical marijuana as a treatment for OUD was introduced in 2018.6 Currently, Arizona state law allows doctors to prescribe medical cannabis to patients who suffer from cancer, glaucoma, HIV, hepatitis C, Crohn's disease, severe nausea, PTSD, and chronic pain.7
  • New Hampshire: In January 2019, New Hampshire lawmakers heard testimony on a bill to add opioid addiction as a qualifying condition to the state's medical marijuana program. New Hampshire’s medical marijuana law was enacted in 2013, and, according to a news report,8 houses 7,120 patients, 449 designated caregivers, and nearly 1,000 certified providers.

Other considerations in states such as Massachusetts and Maryland have been made as well.

Last updated on: January 31, 2019
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New Jersey to Allow Medical Marijuana for Treatment of Chronic Pain, Migraines
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