Illinois will allow opioid users to use medical cannabis

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Illinois will allow opioid users to use medical cannabis

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Thor Benson / Cannabis News Box Contributor

Illinois is one of many states where residents are facing the terrible effects of the opioid epidemic, and a new program hopes to help people get off opioids by offering them medical cannabis. The new Opioid Alternative Pilot Program allows Illinois residents who have been prescribed opioids to get a temporary medical cannabis certificate without having to go through the usual background and fingerprint check medical cannabis patients have to go through.

Many studies have shown that states that legalize medical cannabis have few opioid overdoses, as some people tend to use medical cannabis instead of opioids, and this program could make it easier for this transition to occur. Advocates say it’s a great program that will help many people.

Dan Linn, executive director of Illinois’ NORML office, told Cannabis News Box that medical cannabis is safer than opioids because it doesn’t have the same “potential for an overdose fatality.” After all, there are zero reported cases of someone dying from a cannabis overdose.

“I think this will give doctors and patients an alternative to opioids, and we are definitely having an opioid abuse problem in Illinois,” Linn said.

Illinois already has methadone clinics and other ways of helping get people off opioids, but methadone itself can be pretty addictive. Linn said this program will offer doctors and patients another option.

Linn added there is still some education needed in Illinois when it comes to medical cannabis, as some don’t understand that it’s a safer alternative to opioids, and the War on Drugs has obviously spread a lot of misinformation about the safety of using cannabis.

“For some, there probably isn’t enough [information], but that would really be limited to those without the internet,” Linn said. “For those with the internet, there are plenty of studies and anecdotal stories about reducing opioids that I feel that with a little bit of research and due diligence patients can find the [information] they are seeking.”

Former Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner said last year while signing the bill that created this program, that the state has to do something to combat this “vicious epidemic.” He said he believes medical cannabis effectively treats pain, and he said it’s clearly much less addictive than opioids.

It may be that the spread of medical cannabis helps defeat the opioid epidemic. It definitely looks like more and more lawmakers are seeing this as a path to combating opioid addiction. Perhaps this program in Illinois will encourage other states to develop similar programs.