Illinois Lawmakers Consider Cannabis To Alleviate Opioid Crisis

Illinois could join the ranks of states that are desperate to end the opioid crisis and turning to medical cannabis as a solution.

On May 31, Illinois Senate passed the Alternatives to Opioids Act, which would allow patients 21 and over who have been prescribed an opioid medication to get quick access to medical cannabis. Through the state’s proposed pilot medical cannabis program, patients could avoid fingerprinting and background checks that slow the process down and they could get cannabis from licensed dispensaries with paperwork from a doctor.

Opponents argued that the bill was merely a ploy to help dispensaries make more money, or replacing one addictive drug with another. Supporters say it will be an asset in the fight against opiate addiction. In 2017, Illinois officials recorded 13,000 overdoses, with 2,000 of them fatal.

Gov. Bruce Rauner is facing more than 600 bills that need to be signed or vetoed. However, some expect Raunder to veto the bill because his administration has opposed expanding the states’ medical cannabis program in the past. He approved a measure in 2016 that would extend the current program until 2022, and added terminal illness and post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of approved condition. To do that, it was agreed to quietly disbanded the Cannabis Advisory Board in a deal to allow the later program deadline and expanded conditions list.

Rauner, up for reelection, declined to confirm if he was going to sign the bill at a recent campaign stop. “I have my medical experts looking at that right now,” he said. “I think that’s something that I definitely want to sort out. I personally in our administration am very focused on providing solutions to this opioid epidemic. It’s devastating for so many families in Illinois and frankly across America – this is not an Illinois problem. And coming up with other ways to treat different issues, whether it’s pain management, whether it’s other ailments, with different medications other than opioids, we should explore doing that. Frankly, opioids are devastatingly addictive, they are kind of in a category of their own in terms of their addiction level.”

The bill now heads to Rauner’s desk for consideration.

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