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Last week, New York City regulators took some action that every town, city, and suburb should be considering in light of the ongoing opioid crisis—allowing cannabis to be prescribed to anyone who would normally be prescribed opioids for a pain-related condition. Swapping out a plant that's never killed anyone for opioids, which killed 78 people per day in 2016? I know it sounds crazy, but hear me out...

These emergency rules were enacted so that those with an existing opioid dependency or severe pain where opioids would normally be prescribed now qualify for the state's medical cannabis program. It increases the number of qualifying conditions to 13, and will undoubtedly increase the number of participants, which currently stands at 62,256.

New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker issued a press release explaining the move:

"Medical marijuana has been shown to be an effective treatment for pain that may also reduce the chance of opioid dependence. Adding opioid replacement as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana offers providers another treatment option, which is a critical step in combatting the deadly opioid epidemic affecting people across the state.”

The previous 12 qualifying conditions for acceptance into the state's medical cannabis program included: cancer; HIV infection or AIDS; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS); Parkinson's disease; multiple sclerosis; spinal cord injury with spasticity; epilepsy; inflammatory bowel disease; neuropathy; Huntington's disease; post-traumatic stress disorder; and chronic pain.

New York has been taking a number of actions recently to increase the speed and ease for patients to access medical cannabis, such as adding home delivery, increasing the number of organizations that produce and distribute medical cannabis by five, and allowing nurse practitioners and physicians' assistants to qualify patients for the program.

This isn't Zucker's first action regarding a more sensible cannabis policy. In June he said "the pros outweigh the cons" regarding full legalization of cannabis, and his department is expected to release a report supporting that move.

Not-so-fun facts:
• Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under 50 years old.
• Fentanyl was responsible for the most fatal overdoses in the US— 20,100—followed by heroin at 15,400, and then prescription opioids at 14,400. Cocaine was up next with 10,600 overdose deaths.
• In New York City, 1,075 of the 1,300 overdose deaths in 2016 were from an opioid, according to the city.

Plants over pills...