Illinois Now Allows Patients to Trade Opioid Prescriptions for Medical Cannabis. Here's How.

This week, an innovative medical marijuana program came into effect in Illinois that allows patients who have been prescribed opioid pain relievers to opt for cannabis instead.

The Alternative to Opioids Bill, signed by the state's then-governor Bruce Rauner back in August, allows interested patients over the age of 21 to enrol in the program using their state ID and written doctor’s note saying they’ve been prescribed opioids, or have a condition that would make them eligible. Dispensaries will be able to validate patient enrolment through an online verification database.

Illinois Department Public Health OAPP Director Conny Meuller-Moody told Rolling Stone that the state’s launch day, which took place on Tuesday, has seen a “lot of interest,” with several patients successfully registered for the program.

The state’s existing medical marijuana program, established in 2014, is considered to be one of the stricter programs in the country, requiring a physician certification from, passport photo, proof of residency, proof of age and identity, and fingerprint consent form to be submitted to the state’s Department of Public Health, along with a $100 one-year application fee. 

Enrolment in the Alternative to Opioids program gives patients 90-day temporary access to the medical marijuana program. During this time, they can apply to join long-term. 

As opioid overdoses continue to rise, pain patient polls suggest that the majority of them would much rather use cannabis than their prescribed pain pills. Now, thanks to this new program, many will get that chance.

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On Sunday, Bernie Sanders unveiled his proposal to overhaul the criminal justice system. Cannabis legalization is central to his plan. "We must legalize marijuana nationally, expunge past marijuana convictions and ensure revenue from legal marijuana is reinvested in the communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs," he wrote on Twitter.

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