In Illinois, Doctors Can Now Substitute Marijuana for Opioids

SPRINGFIELD, IL — Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner signed legislation into law on Tuesday permitting physicians to recommend medical cannabis to pain patients in lieu of opioids.

Senate Bill 336, which took immediate effect, permits doctors to recommend cannabis for any “medical condition for which an opioid has been or could be prescribed by a physician based on generally accepted standards of care.”

The new law also makes several other patient-centric changes to the state’s medical marijuana program, such as authorizing applicants with a provisional registration to purchase medical cannabis upon submitting their paperwork.

“We have a new weapon against opioid abuse,” the Governor posted to his twitter account. “Medical pros can now prescribe cannabis instead of opioids for pain management. Science wins again.”

According to data published last year in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Care, enrollees in Illinois’ medical marijuana program frequently reported using cannabis “as an alternative to other medications – most commonly opioids.”

Numerous observational studies report that medical marijuana regulation is correlated with reductions in opioid-related use, drug spending, abuse, hospitalization, and mortality. Separate data evaluating prescription drug use trends among individual patients enrolled in state-licensed medical marijuana programs is consistent with this conclusion, finding that many chronic pain subjects reduce or eliminate their use of opioids following enrollment.

Illinois joins New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania – each of which explicitly permit physicians to recommend medical cannabis for opioid-related diagnoses.

NORML’s fact-sheet highlighting the relevant, peer-reviewed research specific to the relationship between cannabis and opioids is available online here.

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