Gov. Bruce Rauner yesterday signed a bill which expands access to medicinal cannabis in Illinois. The move comes in response to an epidemic of deaths related to opioids in the state but will also ease other restrictions on medicinal cannabis...
The move by Gov. Rauner will allow doctors to prescribe cannabis to any patient who would qualify for an opioid prescription. The Governor stated, “We’ve got to do everything we can to stop this vicious epidemic... We are creating an alternative to opioid addiction. … It’s clear that medical marijuana treats pain effectively, and is less addictive and disruptive than opioids.” In 2016 opioid overdoses killed almost 2,000 people in Illinois and last year they killed nearly 72,000 people nationwide.
Notably, however, the bill is also removing other major restrictions on the current medicinal cannabis program in Illinois. In addition to expanding the list of ailments for which cannabis can be prescribed, the bill removes requirements that applicants be fingerprinted and undergo criminal background checks. Further, as noted in the Chicago Tribune piece linked below, the new legislation also ensures that "those who complete an online application with a doctor’s authorization will get a provisional registration to buy medical cannabis while they wait for state officials to make a final review of their request."
This announcement is a welcome one, especially in a state like Illinois where "about 2.3 million patients in Illinois received about 5 million opioid painkiller prescriptions in 2017, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health." For many patients, cannabis is a safe and effective replacement for dangerously addictive opioids. This type of progress is a testament to efforts by researchers, physicians, and politicians working to de-stigmatize a substance which can ease the pain and suffering for a wide variety of patients. Hopefully other states will follow suit.