Illinois Takes Huge Step Forward in Combating Opioid Crisis with Medical Cannabis

Contact: David Mangone | [email protected] | 202-857-4272 ext. 5

Americans for Safe Access Calls on All States to End Pain, Not Lives by Passing Similar Legislation

Chicago, IL — Today at the Chicago Recovery Alliance, a nonprofit that oversees programs to prevent heroin overdoses, Governor Bruce Rauner (R) signed a bill that could greatly expand access to medical cannabis in the state of Illinois. The bill, SB 336, introduced by state Senator Don Harmon, allows certain individuals who have been given an opioid prescription to trade that prescription in for a medical cannabis card. The bill provides that a doctor may authorize the use of medical cannabis immediately for any patient who qualifies for a prescription of OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin or other opioids.

“This bill embodies the compassion that is needed to tackle this epidemic that is claiming 115 lives a day and is in step with our End Pain, Not Lives Campaign by offering medical cannabis as an option for individuals that are in pain and utilizing opioid therapies. Illinois now serves as a model for states around the country with medical cannabis programs.“ said Steph Sherer, Founder and President for Americans for Safe Access “We urge other states to follow the lead of Illinois and establish cannabis as an option for pain management.”

SB 336 is also a significant victory for patients because it eliminates the requirement for individuals to get fingerprinted and undergo a criminal background check to enroll in the medical cannabis program. The bill also allows qualifying individuals to obtain provisional registrations while their application is being processed so there is no waiting period for medical cannabis between application and approval.

“With enactment of SB 336, we are the first state to give medical prescribers a way to help adult patients manage their pain without compromising their safety or Illinois’ marijuana program standards.” said Governor Rauner “Science wins again. [There is] substantial evidence that cannabis produces clinically significant reductions in pain symptoms. States with medical marijuana dispensaries have seen a 14.4% decrease in the use of prescription opioids. Other preliminary, epidemiological data suggest a correlation between widespread use of medical cannabis and lower opioid death rates.”

According to the state Department of Health, 1,946 individuals from Illinois died from opioid overdose in 2016. Additionally, over 6 million opioid prescriptions were filled in Illinois in 2017. In contrast, there are only approximately 40,000 patients enrolled in the Illinois Medical Cannabis Program.

As part of its ongoing campaign, “End Pain, Not Lives”, Americans for Safe Access distributed model legislation based on this bill to lawmakers from all fifty states earlier this month at the annual National Conference of State Legislators’ Legislative Summit. At the Legislative Summit, Americans for Safe Access also urged lawmakers from Illinois to put pressure on the Governor to sign this bill into law.

To read more about ASA’s End Pain, Not Lives campaign, click here.