Illinois Will Allow Medical Marijuana as Opioid Alternative

Many states are taking action to use their medical marijuana programs to also help address the nation's opioid crisis. And now Illinois will join that list.

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner is expected to sign a bill today that will expand the state's medical marijuana program to offer an alternative to people with opioid prescriptions. Under the new law, doctors will be allowed to authorize their patients for the state's medical marijuana program if they have a prescription for OxyContin, Percocet or Vicodin. The idea is if patients want to use cannabis as an alternative for the painkillers, they will now have a legal means to do so.

The bill also removes some other restrictions for the Illinois medical marijuana program. People who apply for the program will no longer need to be fingerprinted and undergo a background check, and patients who apply for the program online will get a provisional authorization to buy medical marijuana until the state makes a final decision.

Rauner, a Republican, has traditionally opposed expanding marijuana laws in Illinois, and he's even gone as far as saying he will definitely not legalize recreational cannabis while in office. However, a recent poll showing Democrat J.B. Pritzker, who supports legalizing recreational marijuana, holding a double-digit lead over Rauner for this November's gubernatorial election leads many to believe the governor signed this bill as an attempt to appease some undecided voters who are pro-marijuana.

(h/t Chicago Tribune)

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After making progress on marijuana reform, the legalization movement has stalled in two New England states. Cannabis became legal in Vermont last July, but state lawmakers did not put a regulated market for marijuana in place at that time. So while adults in Vermont can possess, grow and consume cannabis, they can't buy it legally.

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