Illinois lawmakers have approved a bill that would make having an opioid prescription into a temporary qualifying condition for the state’s medical cannabis program, NPR reports. The move is an effort to reduce the devastating effects of opioid dependence, which results in the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans each year.
Dubbed the Alternatives to Opioids Act, the bill would allow any individual who is 21 or older and has a condition for which opioids might be prescribed — such as an injury or severe pain — to apply for temporary access to the state’s medical cannabis program. The whole process would be streamlined via paperwork signed by the patient’s doctor — patients would no longer be fingerprinted or need criminal background checks and the approval process would be almost immediate.
State Sen. Don Harmon, a Democrat and sponsor of the Senate version of the bill, called the bill a “low-cost and low-risk alternative” to the ongoing opioid crisis.
“Clearly what we’re doing now is not working. This is a problem that touches citizens in every corner of our state. Medical cannabis is the most readily available alternative….” — Sen. Don Harmon, when introducing the bill in November
The bipartisan legislation now sits on Gov. Bruce Rauner’s desk, awaiting his signature. It remains unclear whether or not Gov. Rauner will sign the bill into law, as he has had a rocky history with pro-cannabis legislation and this bill would potentially open up the medical cannabis industry to millions of new patients.