The state’s top health official has turned down another request to allow the use of medical marijuana for treating opioid addiction.

Proponents decried the decision, arguing New Mexico is overdue to try new approaches in confronting a drug problem that has long racked the state.

The idea had won the backing of the state’s own Medical Cannabis Advisory Board. But Health Secretary Lynn Gallagher countered that there is too little medical literature regarding the effects of cannabis on people with opiate use disorder to justify approving the drug for treatment.

“I cannot say with any degree of confidence that the use of cannabis for treatment of opioid dependence and its symptoms would be either safe or effective,” she wrote in a decision signed Thursday.

Gallagher also declined recommendations to add muscular dystrophy, Tourette’s syndrome, eczema and psoriasis as qualifying conditions for the state’s medical cannabis program. She agreed to add obstructive sleep apnea.

This is the second occasion the Department of Health has declined the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board’s recommendation to add opiate use disorder as a qualifying condition under the program.

Proponents say cannabis helps reduce symptoms of opioid withdrawal, like nausea and insomnia, while aiding restful sleep and reducing the intensity of cravings.

The advisory board supported the proposal by a vote of 5-1.

“I’m extremely disappointed that the Administration has once again failed to listen to the experts to allow the use of medical cannabis to treat opioid use disorder,” state Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, said in a statement. “In the heart of the opioid abuse epidemic it’s critical we use every tool available to save lives.”

The Legislature passed a bill in 2017 that would have added it as a condition. But Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed the measure, writing that she had concerns about the medical cannabis program’s capacity to take on that many more patients.

According to Department of Health data, the program included nearly 55,000 patients at the end of June.

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