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Valley psychiatrist believes medical marijuana could help opioid addiction

Ohio's medical board is considering adding more qualifying medical conditions

BOARDMAN, Ohio (WKBN) - Since 2016, medical marijuana has been legal in Ohio. Even though it isn't available to buy yet, you will need a medical marijuana license and have to meet certain medical conditions. Now, some more conditions could be added.

Dr. Rajendra Koirala is licensed in Ohio to prescribe medical marijuana to his patients. He said the possible new qualifications would help our area fight the opioid epidemic.

The psychiatrist is a pioneer in the Valley. He is one of the first doctors to talk to people about using medical marijuana as a treatment option.

"People, they were concerned whether it was a good idea or not," Koirala said.

He treats patients with cancer, PTSD and chronic pain.

"That's why I decided to do it," he said.

But that list of qualifying medical conditions could start to grow. On Wednesday, the state medical board settled on six new conditions it will consider adding to the medical marijuana list -- general anxiety, depression, insomnia, chronic anxiety, autism and opioid addiction.

"I have seen a lot of people dying from opioid addiction," Koirala said.

Ohio is one of the top five states in the nation for opioid-related deaths.

"Medical marijuana will help to get off of opioids," Koirala said.

Some people feel patients will be trading one addictive drug for another.

"When you compare with other medications, like fentanyl on the street where a lot of people die in the area, it's way, way safer," Koirala said.

Already more than 3,000 people in Ohio have medical marijuana cards and it's not easy to get them.

"We talk with them even before we schedule them. After we schedule them, we go through their history, including their substance abuse history," Koirala said.

For two years, some medical marijuana patients have had to order their medicine online because local dispensaries are not open yet.

CY, a dispensary in Wintersville in Jefferson County, is the only place that has a certificate of operation. It should be up and running by next week.

It could take up to six months before the state medical board makes a final decision on those new conditions.

Once prescribed, the only way patients can get their medicine is through edibles, ointments or by using a vape pen.

Koirala said so far, there have been no deaths from medical marijuana.

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