Offering the thousands of Illinoisans battling the negative impact of opioids, the Alternatives to Opioids Act of 2018 was signed into law August 28 allowing individuals seeking pain management options to be eligible for medical marijuana as an alternative to opioids.
“Senate Bill 336 is a sincere, bipartisan effort to address the opioid crisis in our country,” said Sen. Chris Nybo, R-Elmhurst, who attended today’s signing. “If a patient has been prescribed an opioid, by allowing them to use medical marijuana under the direction of a doctor, we are giving them a safer alternative to treat pain. In Illinois, more people died last year from opioid overdoses than fatal car accidents. We have to address this dangerous epidemic.”
Seeking to give people more control over their own health care and offer more pain-relief options, Senate Bill 336, puts in place a pilot program that will not compromise patient safety or diminish medical marijuana program standards, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Licensed physicians must certify an individual has a medical condition for which an opioid has been or could be prescribed. Participants must register at a licensed dispensary. The program is limited to individuals 21 and older. Dispensations are limited to 2.5 ounces every 14 days and cannot exceed 90 days per physician certification.
“Opioids can be highly addictive in a very short period of time,” said IDPH Director Dr. Nirav D. Shah. “Because the number of opioid deaths continues to rise in Illinois, although at a much slower pace, we understand a person’s hesitancy in filling an opioid prescription. The Opioid Alternative Pilot Program will offer people another option in managing pain.”
The Alternatives to Opioids Act of 2018 also allows those applying for a medical cannabis registry card for one of the qualified conditions to access medical cannabis while their application is being reviewed.
The Illinois Department of Public Health reports opioid deaths in Illinois increased 13 percent from 2016 to 2017. Meanwhile, the Journal of the American Medical Association has reported that states with medical marijuana dispensaries have seen a 14.4 percent decrease in the use of prescription opioids.
The Alternatives to Opioids Act of 2018 is effective immediately.