The Medical Cannabis Advisory Board has made the best decision for addicts by recommending opioid use disorder be named a qualifying condition for the use of cannabis. All that needs to happen for patients to get relief is for Department of Health Secretary Lynn Gallagher to listen to experts.

Even with the enthusiastic recommendations of medical professionals and with the advisory board’s advice, Gallagher’s opinion is all that matters. In November 2016, the board took a similar position. Seven months later, in June, Gallagher ignored the recommendation. (Her boss, Gov. Susana Martinez, also might not be sold on medical marijuana to relieve opioid withdrawal symptoms. Martinez vetoed a GOP-back House bill that would have allowed medical marijuana to be prescribed for opioid use disorder.)

The decision not to add opioid disorder as a qualifying condition was the wrong one. Science is demonstrating that cannabis is useful to people with the symptoms of opioid withdrawal. It also successfully treats chronic pain, the condition that causes so many people to be prescribed opioids in the first place. With opioid use in New Mexico and the nation at a crisis, it is essential to find ways to help people kick addiction — and to avoid it in the first place. Medical marijuana can do both.

Currently, some 48,000 patients are enrolled in the medical cannabis program in New Mexico — being treated for a number of conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain, intractable nausea, cancer, Parkinson’s disease and others. Some 20 conditions are approved, and the board recommended the addition of five more last week, including opioid disorder.

All board members are medical doctors, adding weight to their recommendations. Gallagher, on the other hand, is an attorney. In announcing her decision last summer to ignore the board’s earlier recommendation on opioid use disorder as a qualifying condition, Gallagher wrote that there “appears to be little if any medical literature that actually addresses the effect of cannabis usage on persons with a diagnosed opiate use disorder.”

Gallagher should read the scientific studies that do exist. Talk to health workers on the front lines working with addicts. Talk to the addicts themselves. Talk to members of the cannabis advisory board; as doctors, they have seen the suffering firsthand.

Investigate and try to understand just how medical marijuana can ease the symptoms of withdrawal so that people no longer are suffering. And don’t dawdle — this decision should not take months. Lives literally are hanging in the balance.

Another View

A solar test case

The Washington Post

President Donald Trump has what might seem like an irresistible opportunity for a populist climate change denier: to crack down on imports and harm the effort to combat climate change all at once. Yet even the briefest of looks shows that slapping tariffs on imported solar cells, as he has been urged to do, would harm far more Americans than it could possibly help. In other words, this is a precedent-setting test of whether reality can beat rhetoric in the White House. The implications are vast for the future of the internationally integrated U.S. economy.

The United States has seen a boom in solar power over the past several years, as the cost of the once-pricey energy source has plummeted to a paltry 6 cents per kilowatt-hour. A big part of the story is the advent of highly efficient solar cell manufacturing in China and elsewhere, which has driven down the cost for essential solar parts. Notably, solar cell imports have not minimized employment in the solar industry, which now supports some quarter-million jobs, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. In fact, the industry group points out, imports supply a domestic manufacturing sector based on assembling solar racks and specialized equipment. The group warns that a sharp rise in solar cell costs would threaten thousands of jobs, as well as raise prices for the increasing number of consumers who rely on solar energy, in order to protect a fraction of the jobs such a move would risk.

Yet higher prices are exactly what Suniva and SolarWorld Americas, two struggling solar cell manufacturers, are asking the Trump administration to mandate. They filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission asking for stiff tariffs on solar cell imports under an old and backward section of the country’s trade law, which has been dormant for nearly two decades. The companies needed to show only that a surge in imports harmed them. Then, last Tuesday, the ITC recommended tariffs. Now, the president will get final say.

… This solar trade case may just the beginning. Shortly after it was filed, appliance-maker Whirlpool lodged a similar petition with the ITC, demanding protection from imports of washing machines from Thailand and Vietnam. Once the Trump administration signals that it is willing to misuse the nation’s trade laws to help narrow special interests, uncompetitive companies in a range of industries will file their own complaints, raising everyone else’s prices.

Will Trump’s effort to put “America first” be moderated by reality — or will the president plow ahead regardless of the country’s real interests?

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