The pharmaceutical industry’s growth over the past several decades has created a severe prescription drug problem in the United States which has not gone unnoticed. There is a lot of attention being focused on the opioid crisis that faces the American public as of late.
But people have discovered that there are other options with a better safety profile and potent efficacy. As states across the country have implemented medicinal cannabis laws, large numbers of patients are starting to turn to marijuana for pain management in place of addictive opioids.
In response to the issue, Illinois is now taking things one step further with their cannabis laws by looking to offer the option for anyone who is prescribed opioids.
On January 24, Don Harmon [D] introduced SB0336 or the Alternatives to Opioids Act of 2018. Now, with a bipartisan group of senators signed on, the bill is one step closer to becoming law as the bill easily secured the Senate’s approval with a 44 to 6 vote.
“Opioid addiction is one of the most pressing public health issues in our state,” said Harmon in a press release. “It kills thousands of Illinoisans every year and costs the state nearly $1 billion. We should be open to any reasonable solution to tackle it.”
The measure creates a pilot program which allows anyone with a prescription for opioids to apply for the state’s ordinarily-restrictive medical marijuana program. Under the rules, patients would be able to bring a certification from a physician to a dispensary where, upon verification, it would enable them to purchase medicinal cannabis.
The doctor’s recommendation would set the amount of marijuana that the patient would be able to buy.
The bill initially required patients to apply for a temporary medical cannabis card which they would receive in less than two weeks. But that requirement was dropped when it was determined that there weren’t enough human resources within state agencies to facilitate a reasonable turnaround time for the cards.
Patients can use the medical marijuana to help ease the transition from opioids or for pain management without taking the drugs at all.
“We know that medical cannabis is a safe alternative treatment for the same conditions for which opioids are prescribed,” said Harmon. “This legislation aims to stop dependence before it begins by providing an immediate alternative.
Having passed the Senate, the bill is now being considered by the Illinois House Rules Committee.