Illinois governor approves marijuana as an opioid alternative

(Photo via Drug Policy Alliance)

Illinois lawmakers have expanded medical marijuana access to patients seeking a non-lethal alternative to prescription painkillers.

The state’s Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a bill on Tuesday making cannabis an official replacement to opioids and easing the application process to qualify, reports the Chicago Tribune.

“We’ve got to do everything we can to stop this vicious epidemic,” Gov. Rauner said on Tuesday. “… We are creating an alternative to opioid addiction. … It’s clear that medical marijuana treats pain effectively and is less addictive and disruptive than opioids.”

Doctors will now be allowed to authorize medical marijuana for any patient qualifying for opioid treatments such as OxyContin, Percocet or Vicodin. Applicants will no longer be fingerprinted or undergo a criminal background check, and anyone who completes a provisional online application will receive a provisional medical marijuana license while their request is under review.

The decision was made as almost 2,000 Illinois residents lost their lives to opioid addiction in 2016. The estimated 72,000 opioid deaths from last year was enough for both the Drug Enforcement Administration and Department of Justice to recommend more cultivation of research-grade cannabis, while lowering production of pharmaceutical painkillers.

“This is a great step in the right direction,” said Suzanne Carlberg-Racich, director of research for the alliance and assistant professor of public health at DePaul University, to the Tribune. “I’m pleased to see an alternative for pain management that doesn’t have any potential for a fatal overdose.”

Smell The Truth is one of the internet’s most popular destinations for cannabis-related news and culture. This blog is not written or edited by SFGate or the San Francisco Chronicle. The authors are solely responsible for the content.

Oscar Pascual

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