Illinois governor signs bill to allow medical marijuana as opioid alternative

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Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed legislation Tuesday allowing the use of medical cannabis as an alternative to opioids – a development that could eventually generate hundreds of millions of dollars in additional MMJ sales.

Marijuana Business Daily estimates the move could add tens of thousands of new patients to a program that has roughly 42,000 currently registered.

Illinois has been a highly restrictive MMJ market. But the Marijuana Policy Project noted some key provisions of the legislation that will ease restrictions, including:

  • Qualifying patients will receive provisional registration allowing them to purchase medical marijuana for 90 days while their application is being processed (or until it is denied).
  • Criminal background checks and fingerprint requirements will be eliminated for all participants/applicants in the existing MMJ program and the new Opioid Alternative Pilot Program.

Industry advocates weren’t confident that Rauner, a Republican, would sign the measure, which passed in June.

But political pressure has built as the governor’s Democratic challenger in November, J.B. Pritzker, a proponent of legalizing adult-use marijuana, has opened a double-digit lead, according to some polls.