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Illinois Bill Would Allow Medical Marijuana Access as Opioid Alternative


Illinois Senators have passed legislation that aims to allow alternatives to opioid medications, with medical marijuana being an option. Senate Bill 336 would include all medical conditions where an opioid would be prescribed to qualify for medical marijuana. The program, if passed, would be on a trial/pilot basis.

Those already on opioids or those that would be in danger of over-use would qualify with physician certification, according to The Southern Illinoisan. Some would be able to avoid using opioids altogether if the legislation passes and becomes law. Democrat Don Harmon is the sponsor of the legislation.

Harmon said, “We know that medical cannabis is a safe alternative treatment for the same conditions for which opioids are prescribed. This legislation aims to stop dependence before it begins by providing an immediate alternative.”

The physician recommendation would have to be verified by dispensaries prior to filling any written prescription. A set amount of medical marijuana would be prescribed by the physician. An endorsement card would be provided to all that qualify so that they are legally permitted to obtain, possess and use medical marijuana.

The House Rules Committee has the bill now following its passing vote in the Senate of 44-6.

Lawmakers, including Dale Fowler and Paul Schimpf support the legislation in hopes of reducing the state’s current opioid crisis.

Fowler said, “By supporting the implementation of a pilot program, lawmakers are seeking realistic solutions to a very concerning public health crisis while also ensuring that we are providing medical relief to patients who are in pain and suffering. Moving forward, we should continue to seek out ways to address the escalating epidemic we are seeing with opioid usage across the nation, acknowledging that there may be other avenues to explore that help patients deal with their pain and also recognize that opioids may not be the best or only path forward.”

Schimpf says the bill is common sense.

He said, “It allows doctors to act on a determination that medical marijuana represents a better treatment alternative for their patients than opioids. I hope this passes the House and is signed by Governor Rauner.”

Annually, about 2,000 Illinoisans are losing their lives to opioids, on average.