This past August, Governor Bruce Rauner signed into law Senate Bill 336 also known as the “Alternative To Opioids Act of 2018” thereby making medical marijuana legal but only legal for those seeking, as you guessed it, an alternative to opioids. Illinois Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program will provide medical marijuana as a replacement of opioids for those who opioids for pain management treatment. The program is in effect until July 1st, 2020.
The creation of this new law stems from that fact that in 2016 there were 1,826 opioid-related deaths, a 70% increase from 2013. The Illinois Department of Public Health believes that there was an increase of 17% of opioid-related deaths in 2017 with the number continuing to grow in 2018. The Journal of American Medicine has reported that states with medical marijuana dispensaries have seen as high as a 14.4% decrease in opioid use (and thereby lowering the overall opioid-related deaths).
Josh Ratliff, a manager of a dispensary in Illinois, says that most of the patients that come into his store have prescriptions for opioids such as Oxycontin, Vicodin, Morphine, and Fentanyl. He continued that the main reason his customers try medical marijuana is to control pain with fibromyalgia, PTSD and cancer being the top medical reasons for their pain management. Other conditions that medical marijuana treats include rheumatoid, arthritis, epilepsy, phantom limb pain, sleep apnea, and osteoporosis.
The new law allows paint management patients to try medical marijuana in a few different forms including flowers, oils, concentrates, topical ointments, and edibles. Patients must be 21 years or older and have one of the 40 qualifying conditions.
“This is a major step in tackling the state’s opioid epidemic,” said Kovler. “We applaud Sen. Don Harmon’s efforts in sponsoring this crucial bill that will save lives.”