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New York Passes Key Marijuana Bills

New York's State Assembly voted to seal marijuana convictions and allow medical cannabis access for opioid use disorder.

New York State joined New Jersey and Pennsylvania by adding another condition to the state’s list of approved medical conditions for medical marijuana patients: opioid addiction.

According to the NY Daily News, Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell (D-Manhattan), who introduced the measure, said, "We have an opioid crisis, and people are dying, and this may be a path to keep people from dying and keep them from relapsing.” O'Donnell said medical marijuana should be in the toolbox for treating what has become a “very serious problem in our society.”

Melissa Moore, deputy state director of the Drug Policy Alliance, noted the growing evidence that MMJ reduces opioid-related deaths and addiction relapses. "Far from being a gateway drug, marijuana is potentially an exit drug for people using opioids."

A recent study conducted by the University of New Mexico found a connection between complete cessation or reduction of opioid use in US states where MMJ is legal and available, confirming that a large percentage of patients substituted their opioid prescriptions with medical cannabis. Studies also confirm that over 115 Americans die every day from opioid overdoses.

The Speaker of the Assembly also called for the clearing of records to be a part of any discussion about legalization.

To that end, the State Assembly voted to pass a bill to seal marijuana convictions for individuals who have been unjustly and unconstitutionally arrested for simple possession, which constitutes thousands of New Yorkers.

“As New York moves forward to reform marijuana enforcement and study the beneficial outcomes of legalization for the state, it is imperative that any efforts to legalize marijuana for adult use also address the mass criminalization of communities of color that has come as a product of the enforcement of marijuana prohibition,” said Christopher Alexander, policy coordinator at the Drug Policy Alliance.

Both bills will now go up for a vote by the New York State Senate before becoming law.

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