The Fight Opioid Addiction and Overdose with Medical Cannabis Project hopes to open a clinic in Gardner, Colorado, that will give free medical marijuana cards to opioid addicts or other users of dangerous narcotic pain meds.
Marijuana manages pain; thousands have used it to wean themselves off more dangerous painkillers like oxy and morphine.
Medical marijuana is cheaper than rec.
"Of course we're in Colorado, where anyone can buy it, but if you're using it on a medical regimen, it can be expensive," said Travis Nelson, executive director of the group. "We want to make the medication available for people who can't afford it."
Along with the cost of a card — $60 to $100, usually — medical dispensaries often have a wider selection of strains with high CBD, the "medicinal" molecule in pot. And medical ounces are often less expensive than rec ounces.
Even the strongest opioids are often cheap in comparison to weed.
The project has started fundraising, looking to raise $50,000 to get the clinic going. They're having meetings. They're selling bracelets that read "Helping end the opioid epidemic." And they're recruiting donors.
The opioid epidemic is one of America's greatest crises of any kind — as big as the AIDS epidemic or the Vietnam War, by some measures. About 60,000 Americans will die from drug overdoses this year, most of them opioid-related.
There's great hope that marijuana can slow the death rate. While marijuana used to be called a gateway drug, hospitals in states with legal marijuana treated far fewer opioid users, a study showed. And a study in mice suggested that CBD blocks the opioid reward receptors. Marijuana is less addictive, easier to quit and impossible to overdose from. A clinic in Los Angeles integrates cannabis into its rehab program. So while naloxone is the acute antidote to an opioid overdose, marijuana might be the long-term antidote to a national opioid overdose.
Leaders of the Fight Opioid Addiction and Overdose with Medical Cannabis Project shared their personal stories of opioid addiction with Rooster. When Kyle Dijon Hill was 23, a car accident smashed up her body, breaking her neck, femur and ribs. Docs put her on dilaudid, the King Kong of painkillers. Later they had her on a fentanyl patch and oxycontin pills. "I spent the next couple of years loaded. I couldn't function. I completely lost my quality of life," Hill said. When she stopped taking the pills, she withdrew: shaking, fever, violent vomiting.
In recent years, marijuana has been the way she manages pain. "It works just as good as oxy," Hill said, with fewer side effects. She's now in medical school at the Caribbean School of Medicine in Curacao. She's the chief operating officer for the project. When she becomes a physician, she said, she'll volunteer her time giving free medical marijuana cards to addicts.
Nelson, the head of the project, is also the president of the Colorado Cannabis Growers Association. He was taking 90 vicodin a month for a bad back, until, he said, marijuana allowed him to say to his doctor, "Keep your pills, I'm good."
The project has yet to actually issue a card. But their plans are big. They want to collect data on all the opioid users who come through their doors, for a scientific study that tracks their progress.
"Medical cannabis is a solution to the opioid epidemic," Hill said.