The Illinois Senate Thursday approved a measure allowing the use of cannabis as an alternative to opioids. Under the plan, patients could get immediate -- but temporary -- access to cannabis with just a doctor’s certification.
State Sen. Don Harmon an Oak Park Democrat said the idea addresses the state’s opioid crisis by offering options for pain management. “It would provide access to the Medical Cannabis Program. It allows an alternative that keeps people from getting strung out, and spiraling down,” he said.
The state’s current Medical Cannabis Program only covers 41 conditions and patients who apply for a medical cannabis card must fall under one of those to qualify.
Harmon’s proposal gives the option of cannabis use on a temporary basis for conditions outside the 41 and without the need of a permanent medical cannabis card. And as with the Medical Cannabis Program, doctors must still certify that a patient has a certain condition, and confirm that a patient doesn't already have access to cannabis.
However, opponents say the proposal is just another attempt to get medical cannabis dispensaries more business.
Chris McCloud, a spokesperson for HCI alternatives, a medical marijuana dispensary with locations in Collinsville and Springfield, said this legislative approach is a unique plan aimed at helping the state with opioid addiction.
“It’s very innovative legislation that has not been attempted in another state,” he said. “Obviously Illinois is in the same boat with many other states in dealing with the opioid crisis. And all states are grappling with how to tackle the issue.”
The measure received bi-partisan support and heads to the House for consideration.