RI Health Department considering medical marijuana for opioid dependency

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 The Rhode Island Department of Health has scheduled a public hearing to discuss the possibility of using medical marijuana to treat opioid dependency.

In October, B & B Medical Marijuana Evaluation Center in Warwick sent a petition to the department.

"It was their contention that there are people who suffer chronic pain, so if they have medical marijuana as an option, it means perhaps they wouldn't need to be on opioids and could transition off of opioids onto medical marijuana," DOH spokesperson Joseph Wendelken said.

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About 336 people fatally overdosed in 2016; 323 people in 2017 and 220 people died between January and September 2018.

The Rhode Island Department of Health will review the public comments, do a review of the medical literature on the issue, and engage clinicians and researchers to get their input. Eventually, Dr. Alexander-Scott will issue a decision on the petition. Her decision has to come within 180 days of the receipt of the petition, so a decision is expected by mid-April.

Patients would likely consume medical marijuana through edibles, but it can also be smoked or used as an ointment. In October, the department approved medical marijuana as a way to treat certain cases of autism.

A hearing has been scheduled for Feb. 6 at 10 a.m. in the Department of Health's Auditorium.

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