Illinois lawmakers OK use of medical cannabis as alternative to opioids

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Legislation passed last week in Illinois would allow potentially thousands of patients to receive medical marijuana as an alternative to highly addictive opioids, a move that could provide a notable boost to MMJ sales.

The state’s governor must still sign off on the legislation before it can become law.

But the approval by the Illinois General Assembly reflects how states increasingly are embracing the idea of combating opioid addiction with MMJ, an approach that opens a new market for medical cannabis companies.

Illinois Press Secretary Rachel Bold didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on whether Gov. Bill Rauner, a Republican, would sign the bill.

Chris Lindsey, senior legislative counsel of the Marijuana Policy Project, wrote in an email that he’s not certain the governor will sign the bill, which would be a pilot program through June 30, 2020. He added Rauner has 60 days to decide. It typically has taken all or most of that time with marijuana bills.

According to Lindsey, a number of other states have passed or considered similar initiatives:

  • New Jersey and Pennsylvania have both added opioid addiction as a qualifying condition to receive medical marijuana.
  • In Utah, language is included in a medical marijuana ballot initiative headed to voters in November.
  • Similar bills to the one in Illinois have been introduced in New Mexico and New York.