Illinois Senate Votes For Medical Marijuana As An Opioid Alternative

By Bryan Le 04/30/18

Opponents of the legislation view the bill as a cynical move by lawmakers to make money for the state’s medical marijuana dispensaries.

Cones of cannabis flowers lie on the scales close up
Illinois pain patients could soon have a choice.

In an effort to combat the ever-growing opioid crisis, Illinois senators voted 44-6 for a bill that would enable patients in the state to receive medical marijuana as an alternative to opioid painkillers. The bill now awaits House approval.

In action, the plan would give pain patients a choice of what to do with a prescription for opioid painkillers. Instead of bringing the opioid prescription to a pharmacy and receiving the pills, they have the option to take the same prescription to a medical marijuana dispensary to receive a greener alternative treatment.

Each dispensary would be required to verify the prescription with the prescribing physician, and make sure that the patient hasn’t already picked up pot from another dispensary.

Supporters of the proposal say that it would help alleviate the opioid crisis by providing a safer option for pain medication. Those who oppose the bill believe that the proposal is a cynical move by lawmakers to make money for the state’s medical marijuana dispensaries.

However, the sponsoring senator of the legislation, Sen. Don Harmon (D) says the bill is necessary as long as it “keeps people from getting strung out and spiraling down” due to opioid addiction, which he called “a crisis ravaging the state.”

“When people ask me if we are not simply creating a gateway, I tell people this: I don’t know if cannabis is addictive, but I do know this: Opioids and heroin kills people, cannabis does not,” said Harmon.

However, opponents of the bill don’t see it that way. Last year, Harmon received at least $8,000 in campaign contributions from medical marijuana proponents.

“I just want to make note and remind people that the medical marijuana program was lobbied by people who now own it,” said Sen. Kyle McCarter (R), who has long opposed marijuana legislation.

Currently, Illinois only allows patients to get their hands on medical marijuana if they suffer from a list of ailments including cancer, glaucoma, and muscular dystrophy. Governor Bruce Rauner has also added terminal illnesses and post-traumatic stress disorder to the list.

This isn’t the only thing the state is doing to stem the opioid crisis. Illinois lawmakers have also introduced a bill that outlines ID requirements to pick up opioid prescriptions from pharmacies.

“If you're picking up an opioid prescription, which we know is a highly addictive drug that is becoming a huge problem in our country, you should have to show an ID,” said U.S. Representative Rodney Davis.

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

Bryan Le grew up in the 90's, so the Internet is practically his third parent. This combined with a love for journalism led him to The Fix. When he isn't fulfilling his duties as Editorial Coordinator, he's obsessing over fancy keyboards he can't justify buying. Find Bryan on LinkedIn or Twitter