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Illinois Could Allow People With Opioid Prescriptions to Switch to Medical Marijuana Instead

Many politicians are finally aware that marijuana can be used as an alternative to dangerous opioids. But it's only the state of Illinois that's doing anything about it.

A new bill in front of the Illinois State Senate would allow anyone with an opioid prescription to automatically qualify for the state's medical marijuana program. This means patients could choose to take medical cannabis as a substitute for opioids, if they're concerned about the dangerous side effects of those drugs. Patients would need their prescription and a doctor's note and would receive a 12-month medical marijuana card.

A sponsor for the bill said this is the perfect way to help reduce the state's opioid problems.

“When people ask me if we are not simply creating a gateway, I tell people this: I don’t know if cannabis is addictive, but I do know this: Opioids and heroin kills people, cannabis does not,” said Democratic State Senator Don Harmon.

Many studies in recent months have shown that states with medical marijuana have lower rates of opioid abuse, and that painkiller addicts are more likely to reduce or even stop using the dangerous drugs if given access to cannabis.

The bill passed the state senate 44-6. It will now go to the Illinois House, where it's expected to be signed. The only question is whether Republican Governor Bruce Rauner will approve the measure. Rauner's made it clear he opposes marijuana legalization and has been hesitant to expand Illinois' current medical program. But he did sign a bill that extended the program from 2020 to 2022 and also added PTSD and other terminal illnesses to the qualifying conditions.

(h/t Chicago Tribune)


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