ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New Yorkers with an opioid prescription may soon qualify to join the state's medical marijuana program.

State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker told reporters Monday that the Department of Health will develop regulations giving people the choice of enrolling in the medical marijuana program if they have been prescribed opioids.

Zucker says the move could save "countless" lives by preventing opioid addiction. His agency cited research showing marijuana can reduce opioid use while eliminating the risk of overdose and reducing the risk of addiction.

Meanwhile, the state Senate on Monday passed legislation to authorize medical marijuana for opioid addiction and as an alternative pain medication.

New York's medical marijuana program now allows patients with 12 physician-certified conditions, including cancer, HIV-AIDS and chronic pain to use non-smokeable forms of marijuana.

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