The United States is in the midst of what is being called an “epidemic.” Americans are struggling with heroin dependency and abuse on a scale that has never been seen before. Health experts believe that prescription opioid painkillers are a large part of the problem, but patients who are in serious pain often have few options. In Illinois, however, suffering patients may soon have temporary access to medical marijuana as an alternative to prescription opioids.
A Landmark Measure
Last month, both houses of the Illinois legislature passed The Alternatives to Opioids Act, which would give millions of Illinois residents conditional access to the state’s medical marijuana program. Under the existing program, an eligible patient must have one of several dozen approved medical conditions and undergo an application process through the state. It also requires patients to be fingerprinted and have a background check completed.
The new measure would expand the medical cannabis program to include patients who would otherwise be prescribed prescription opioids for pain. Opioid painkillers include drugs such as Vicodin, OxyContin, and other medications with a dangerous rate of addiction and abuse. If approved by the governor, the law would increase the scope of the state’s medical marijuana program exponentially. There are currently about 37,000 approved users now, but the state sees some 8 million opioid prescriptions filled annually.
A Safer Option
There is some debate over how effective marijuana is at controlling severe or chronic pain. Senator Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, the primary sponsor of the bill, however, says that the ongoing discussions should not stop people from having other options. “The only two things I know for certain is: Opioids kill people, and marijuana does not,” Harmon said.
The statistics seem to be on Harmon’s side. Since 2008, there have been about 11,000 deaths linked to opioid overdoses. Meanwhile, the Drug Enforcement Administration has never reported a single death related to an overdose of marijuana.
Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner has been historically opposed to expanding the state’s medical marijuana program. Statewide political experts believe, however, that pressures from a pro-legalization candidate in the upcoming gubernatorial election could push Rauner into being a little more open to the idea.
Call Us for Help
While the medical marijuana program has given thousands of Illinois residents legal access to the drug, those who have not been approved for the program could still face criminal charges for possessing or selling marijuana. If you have been charged with any type of drug crime, contact an experienced Joliet criminal defense attorney for help right away. Call 815-740-4025 to schedule a free consultation at the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba today.