Maine Poised To Become First State To Approve Medical Marijuana To Treat Heroin And Painkiller Addiction

The amount of patients who claim that marijuana has helped them kick their addictions to painkillers, and even heroin, is on the rise and may soon be legitimized. The state of Maine is currently on the fast track to becoming the first state to make an addiction to opioid prescriptions and certain illegal narcotics such as heroin a qualifier for obtaining medical marijuana.

Last month almost 30 caregivers and patients who use medical marijuana went to a public hearing where they told state regulators that using marijuana was a great ease to the symptoms they suffered during opioid withdrawal. The proponents for medical marijuana use also stated that the plant offered them a healthier alternative to using prescription painkillers and possibly becoming addicted to those drugs.

While there s scientific data being put forth by advocates in their arguments for the use of medical marijuana to treat these addictions, it is not bountiful and the Press Herald believes that this will be a significant hurdle for those pushing for the still illicit drug to be official. The literature supporting the idea that marijuana does indeed help is on the rise though, and the advocates pointed to a study published earlier this year in the Journal of Pain wherein they found that chronic pain sufferers reduced their dependency on opioids significantly once they started taking medical cannabis. Another study that was published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association also supported the premise that cannabis is an effective tool against chronic pain and certain other ailments.

During the public hearing in Maine, more than one person who had been positively affected by the use of marijuana gave testimonies of their situations. A 50-year-old Mount Vermont resident by the name of Joseph Legendre found it difficult to hold back tears as he spoke of his 26 years long chronic back pain. Legendre said that he hurt his back while working on a construction site all those years ago and it was not until he began using cannabis that he finally found relief. Another testimony came from 23-year-old Britney Lashier of Saco and she spoke of the heroin addiction she developed in Morocco during her college years and how marijuana helped her break it.

"Marijuana saved my life for sure."
Other states which have few regulations and restrictions surrounding medical marijuana use, like California and Massachusetts, have reportedly already been prescribing it to treat opiate addiction. According to the Maine Medical Association though, should the state move forward with their decision, they would be the first in the United States to specifically include opiate addiction as a qualifying condition to gain access to medical marijuana.

CBS News wrote that the public hearing was held by Maine's Department of Health and Human Services in response to a petition put forth by a caregiver. Whether or not marijuana will become a qualifier is something the department has 180 days to consider.

Of course the meeting also had those who oppose the idea and representatives of Maine's medical establishment stated that no scientific evidence actually exists to back up the claims being made that marijuana can effectively treat addiction. Leah Bauer, who is a psychiatrist and medical director at the Addiction Resource Center at Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick, believes that approval of the petition would only give addicts another toxic and habit-forming substance to cling to, arguing that "In fact, using marijuana may be like pouring gasoline on the fire."

Darrell Gudroe, 39-years old and a member of the board of Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine steadfastly expressed his belief that drug addiction should be included on the list of qualifying conditions to obtain medical marijuana as it is a great way for those fighting an addiction to opioids to get some help.

"There's not a better way to get off them I've seen."
[Photo Courtesy of Brian Goodman/Shutterstock]