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Illinois Lawmakers Say Yes to Medical Marijuana to Combat Opioid Epidemic

Patients could buy medical marijuana from licensed dispensaries during the time they were prescribed opioids.

Illinois to Allow Marijuana for Opioid Addiction

At times, voices of reason come together over controversial issues, as did the Illinois Senate recently when it voted 44 to 6 to allow doctors to prescribe medical marijuana as an alternative to opioids.

Under the language of the bill, patients would be entitled to buy medical marijuana from licensed dispensaries for the length of time they were prescribed opioids by their physician. Patients would also be eligible to apply for medical marijuana cards.

Senator Don Harmon, a Democrat from Oak Park, sponsored the bill in the hope that it would help combat the opioid crisis “ravaging the state,” reported ABC7Chicago.

Senator Harmon said the bill’s easy passage was a sign of just how the opioid crisis “touches every part of Illinois.”

“My colleagues have recognized that and are eager for anything that we can do to mitigate the harm that’s caused by opioids,” said Harmon, reported the Journal Star. “And they’ve clearly recognized that medical cannabis is an alternative that has little risk and great potential.”

Not a moment too soon

In just this past year, Illinois emergency rooms experienced a 66 percent jump in opioid overdose visits, according to a report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which confirms that the epidemic of heroin and prescription painkiller abuse continues to worsen.

Rachel Bold, spokeswoman for Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, said the Republican is open to all solutions to the crisis.

Thank goodness for that in view of a study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse that found there was a 20 percent decline in opioid overdose deaths in states with legalized medical marijuana.

This is viewed as a huge step in the right direction, especially considering that Illinois has one of the most restrictive medical marijuana programs in the country.

Chris McCloud, a spokesperson for HCI Alternatives MMJ dispensary, called the bill important and innovative.

“…what’s really more important is the ability given potentially to thousands and thousands of people who currently don’t have an alternative to pain relief, options.”

The bill now heads to the House.

While both cannabis and opioids are effective in pain management, cannabis has never been linked to death by lethal dosage, while the CDC reports that more than three out of five drug overdose deaths involve an opioid. So why use opioids to treat pain?

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