Illinois Lawmaker's Plan To Combat Opioid Abuse With Cannabis

Nov 20, 2017

The opioid epidemic continues to sweep across Illinois and the rest of the nation, now declared a public health emergency. But, some believe medical marijuana could be the solution.

Medicinal cannabis is legal in Illinois, but it’s only available to those who suffer from specific ailments like Muscular Dystrophy, seizures, cancer and more.

Senator Don Harmon, a Democrat from Oak Park, says medical marijuana could help individuals using and/or abusing opioids.  He’s behind a plan to give that option. 

“We’re trying to make sure that any condition where an opioid could be prescribed, the doctor can certify that and the patient can plan ahead so that they have an alternative. What we really want to do is make sure that people aren’t using opioids for a month, two months or three months and reach this point where they are addicted to it and end up going backwards.”

Opioids are dangerous because patients become addicted. Chris Stone, CEO of HCI Alternatives, a medical cannabis dispensary in Springfield and the metro east, says that’s a concern for cannabis as well. However, he says the industry takes steps to prevent this. 

“I think you could become addicted to anything. It’s always going to be about moderation and treating one’s pain. One of the things we do in terms of the cannabis industry, is we move our patients to different strains so they don’t develop a tolerance.”  

Current law does not allow doctors to prescribe marijuana. They only certify a patient has a specific ailment that’s approved to be treated with cannabis. This proposal would allow a doctor to certify the use of marijuana for any condition where opioids can be prescribed.

However, Harmon says medical marijuana would be used in conjunction with opioids, or after a prescription ran out. It would not replace the drugs.