Why We Need to Advocate for THC in Medication-Assisted Treatment

In Michigan, strict regulations around THC in opioid recovery use are causing harm. It’s time to advocate for harm reduction.

Fighting stigma is an exhausting battle that can feel never-ending. We often feel that there are two different worlds and we on the side of having a mental health and/or substance use issues can often feel alienated. Advocating for ourselves and for others is a daunting task. I have explained the ideals behind harm reduction so many times that it feels almost like I have a mini-script prepared and ready anytime a need may arise.

Harm reduction is a fantastic idea that really just boils down to looking at a current situation, looking at how we might be able to change a situation into being less harmful, and then being able to carry that plan out. Harm reduction is just like anything else in that there is not an absolute. Perhaps your goal is to be abstinence-based and you want to continue your sobriety based around this. Your goal is STILL to do less harm and this fits within harm reduction.

One big component of harm reduction is replacing opiates with THC for pain management.  There are already states who qualify medical marijuana for use (THC) with Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT). New Jersey is an example of this in allowing opioid diagnosis to qualify for a medical marijuana card. Sadly, Michigan is not yet allowing medical marijuana to be used for MAT. Even worse, Michigan is currently in a pattern of requiring more regulation and restrictions around those who use THC while receiving MAT. We must work to decrease stigma and barriers, to better empower the idea of health and wellness in Michigan.

This is where being an advocate can make a huge impact. Whether you’re a patient receiving MAT, a friend or loved one of someone who is, or just have a strong viewpoint on the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, contacting your local representatives can really pay off. Workit Health encourages you to speak up, and get involved.

If you’re in Michigan, advocating is as easy as going to this link to find your local State Senator:
https://senate.michigan.gov/fysbyaddress.html

Obtain their email and begin crafting a message to them.

You can use this generic message, add to it, or create your own:
“Hello Senator _____,

My name is _______.    I am an advocate for Medication Assisted Treatment and find that it is crucial that the State of Michigan does everything possible to assist in fighting the Opioid Crisis.  I’m reaching out to you in an attempt to get something changed at the state level.

What the SUDS-LAW says, for reference:

A licensee shall perform and document the tests completed for opioids, benzodiazepine, methadone and methadone metabolites, buprenorphine and buprenorphine metabolites, barbiturates, amphetamines, cocaine, and other drugs on all recipients, according to all of the following:

(a) For a new recipient to a program, the test results must be documented in the recipient record prior to the initial dosing.

(b) Biweekly testing on a random collection schedule with results documented in the recipient record within 72 hours of collection, excluding weekends and holidays.

(c) For a recipient who has maintained biweekly drug-free results for a period of 6 months, monthly testing on a random collection schedule with results documented in the recipient record within 72 hours of collection, excluding weekends and holidays.

(d) A positive test for drugs other than methadone and methadone metabolites, buprenorphine and buprenorphine metabolites, legally prescribed drugs, or medical marihuana, requires the licensee to perform weekly testing until 3 consecutive weekly drug-free results are documented.

(e) A positive test for drugs other than methadone and methadone metabolites, buprenorphine and buprenorphine metabolites, legally prescribed drugs, or medical marihuana, requires the licensee to address and record all interventions in the recipient record.

The problem I have with this is that it is proven that harm reduction works. When we are punishing people for using marijuana as an alternative to opiates, this is problematic. I understand that the law states that Medical Marijuana is excluded in treating chronic pain, but this can be often difficult for people to obtain due to cost and other factors and does not allow marijuana to be used directly for medication-assisted treatment purposes. I’m hopeful that you may be able to steer this conversation in the right direction so that marijuana is not considered a part of these laws. Many states, including New Jersey specifically, have adapted marijuana as part of the process of medication-assisted treatment.  Michigan needs to get here as well.

Thank you for your time,

Your Name”