Illinois Bill Seeks To Head Off Opioid Addiction With Cannabis

Medical cannabis in Illinois
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A bill seeking to allow patients to use medical cannabis as an alternative to opioid treatment passed the Illinois House and Senate last week.

Senate Bill 0336 would enable a patient, subject to certain conditions, who has received a physician certification for a medical condition that an opioid has been or could be prescribed for to purchase medical cannabis from a dispensing organization.

The bill has 16 Senate sponsors and dozens of sponsors in the House. The Senate passed the bill after its third reading on the 26th. After the House vote on the 27th, the bill was referred to the Rules Committee.

“Opioid addiction is one of the most pressing public health issues in our state,” said Senate sponsor Dan Harmon last week. “It kills thousands of Illinoisans every year and costs the state nearly $1 billion. We should be open to any reasonable solution to tackle it.”

Should the bill be eventually signed into law, it could go a long way towards addressing opioid abuse in the state. Senator Harmon said the legislation aims to stop dependence before it begins by providing an immediate alternative

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, opioid-related overdose deaths in Illinois increased from 3.9 deaths per 100,000 persons in 1999 to 15.3 deaths in 2016; equivalent to 483 and 1,947 annual deaths statewide respectively. While many of those were heroin related, there was a sharp increase in the number of synthetic opioid related deaths.

In 2015, 8 million opioid prescriptions were filled in the state, which works out to 60 opioid prescriptions per 100 persons. However, this was down 10 percent compared to 2013 and less than the national average.

Illinois’ Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act came into effect in August 2013. Currently, there are 40 conditions listed that qualify for the program.

Qualifying patient are required to obtain a written certification from a physician specifying their debilitating condition and  then apply for a medical cannabis registry identification card.

Further details on the state’s Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program can be found here.