Model Legislation - Summary
Allow Cannabis Treatment for New Opioid Wisdom - "ACT NOW”
Close to 1.3 million Americans are hospitalized each year for opioid related issues. Coroners’ offices are running out of places to put bodies because of the high number of overdose deaths. Medical cannabis can be an effective tool to help resolve the opioid crisis, and it is imperative that the laws of your state recognize its benefit in stopping this epidemic. With a crisis that is taking ninety-one lives a day, we must “ACT NOW”. Below are proposed inclusions to your state's medical cannabis program that will end pain, not lives.
The Allow Cannabis Treatment for New Opioid Wisdom (“ACT NOW”) Act
1. Add Chronic Pain and Opioid Use Disorder to the List of Qualifying Conditions
Research has shown that cannabis can be effective in treating chronic pain without many of the harmful side effects associated with traditional prescription painkillers like hydrocodone and oxycodone. A 2014 study showed that in states that had comprehensive medical marijuana programs, doctors wrote 1,826 less prescriptions for painkillers per patient than states that did not have medical cannabis programs. Opioid use disorder should also be included in the list of qualifying conditions because accumulating evidence has shown that cannabinoids can have long-lasting therapeutic effects. Preclinical animal studies have long demonstrated that extracts from the cannabis plant reduce the rewarding properties of opioid drugs and withdrawal symptoms.
2. Provide for Same Day Access to Medicine
Nearly every medicine prescribed by a doctor is available the same day at a local pharmacy. Unfortunately, some medical cannabis patients must wait weeks or months to get approval and access to their medicine. With 91 individuals dying each day from opiate overdose, putting unreasonable delays on access to medicine only makes the problem worse. ACT NOW includes legislative language that allows same day access to medicine which will save countless lives.
3. Drug Conviction Reversal for Certain Offenses
Medical cannabis patients can have a hard time accessing the medicine they need, particularly if they have an existing drug charge. Often the drug charges of medical cannabis patients are related to their status as a patient before their state developed a program. ACT NOW allows for post conviction relief for certain drug offenses to ensure that more patients could access their medicine.
4. End Discriminatory Testing at Pain Clinics
Some physicians refuse to treat a patient in their care if the patient tests positive for THC, even in states where cannabis is legal. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued guidelines recommending that doctors do not test their patients for THC when prescribing opioids. The CDC guidelines also suggest physicians should not refuse to treat a patient merely for cannabis use. ACT NOW prohibits doctors from testing for THC and using a positive result as a disqualifier for treatment. Protecting pain patients and removing arbitrary punishment for using cannabis will help expand patient access to medicine
5. Allow Hospice, Recovery Centers and Home Health Centers to be Caregivers
Most medical cannabis programs only allow two types of people to possess cannabis identification cards: the patients themselves and a designated caregivers. ACT NOW allows hospices, recovery centers, and home health centers to serve as caregivers and creates a greater range of options for patients in these facilities. This would particularly impact patients with mobility issues who do not have access to a caregiver.
6. Recommend Cannabis as a First Resort Medication
Patients should not have to try a cocktail of dangerous pharmaceuticals before being allowed to medicate with cannabis. ACT NOW recognizes that if a doctor believes that cannabis would be an effective treatment to chronic pain, a patient should not have to first try all other pharmaceuticals to be able to conform with the physician's recommendation
7. Protect the Civil Rights of Patients
ACT NOW protects medical cannabis patients from being denied housing or public benefits merely because of the medicine they use. Additionally, a patient should not be discriminated against in organ transplants, either giving or receiving because of their status as a patient.
8. Establish Rigorous Product Safety Standards
Cannabis, compared to many other substances, is very safe. However, there are consumer safety issues that emerge when a product is distributed on a large industrial scale. Medical cannabis brings particular concerns about accurate labeling and the presence of high levels of pesticides or mold. The presence of pesticides and mold cause particular concern to patients. ACT NOW creates strict testing and product labeling standards for medical cannabis.
9. Create financial hardship exemptions for ID cards and licenses
The opioid crisis has hit America’s low income populations particularly hard, ravishing poor rural and urban communities. Without insurance coverage or help from programs like Medicare and Medicaid, the medicine of cannabis patients can be prohibitively expensive. Onerous fees for patient ID cards or licenses put an additional burden on low income patients. Additionally, low income patients should be able to receive discounts on their medicine. No one should be denied treatment because of their economic status.