Colorado lawmakers recently proposed a Senate Bill 19-013 that would authorize doctors to recommend medical marijuana rather than painkillers to treat certain conditions. This is a strategic effort to fight the opioid epidemic that has plagued so many seeking pain relief. Sponsors of the bill are quick to point out that this initiative would not require them to recommend medical marijuana but only give them the option.
The bill is sponsored by Representative Edie Hooton (D-Boulder), who considers this legislation transformative in the way patients are treated for chronic pain, especially children. Hooten notes that, “This is going to be a pretty big deal for acute pain for athletes, and also for kids who have surgeries.”
As of now, two separate physicians must recommend medical marijuana for a child for them to have access to cannabis based nasal sprays or extracts. If Senate Bill 19-013 passes, it would also require a review of diagnosing records from the primary care physician. The medical marijuana regulations in Colorado are very comprehensive as some of the first drafted in the nation.
The medical community has a mixed reaction to the new legislation with many doctors pointing to the lack of cannabis research. However, Dr. Stephanie Stewart is cautiously optimistic about the bill. Her concerns stems more from those patients who are already addicted to opioids but may lean more on medical marijuana than their medication to treat the addiction. Stewart explained that, “It conflates the opioid epidemic and marijuana.”
Despite come push back from those in the medical field, Hooton is adamant that, “This bill is not about people with addiction issues. It adds acute pain as a condition that would qualify for medical marijuana.” Stewart sees things differently and said, “If it doesn’t have anything to do with addiction. It wouldn’t have included opioid in the title of the bill.”
The Colorado Governor Jared Polis has until June 3rd to decide if he wants to support the bill and sign it into law. Fiscal analysts say the bill would not have a major impact on the tax revenue currently being generated. Medical marijuana is taxed at 2.9% while recreational is taxed at 15% however it could make it much more affordable for families who currently purchasing products as recreational customers but using it for medical treatment.
Jared Penman is a strong supporter of the bill and says “medical marijuana basically saved me.” He suffers from osteochondritis dissecans of the talus, tibia and fibula stage four which is extremely painful. Doctors continually prescribed opioids for his condition and he eventually struggled with addiction. After receiving his medical marijuana card he stopped using opioids and noticed cannabis helped with his pain as well as withdrawal symptoms. He now owns a medical marijuana dispensary and hasn’t touched painkillers in seven years.