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Medical marijuana applications surge in Illinois

A new bill allows doctors to prescribe medical cannabis as an alternative to prescription opioids.
Medical Marijuana shop

SPRINGFIELD (Illinois News Network) — The use of medical marijuana is growing in Illinois thanks in part to recent changes in legislation that allows cannabis to be used as an alternative to opioid pain medication.

Gov. Bruce Rauner signed Senate Bill 336 in August allowing doctors to prescribe medical cannabis as an alternative to prescription opioids.

Medical Cannabis Alliance of Illinois Director of Communications Rebecca Mason said it’s a viable alternative.

“There’s a lot of growing evidence that’s been published in medical journals and other places that shows that medical cannabis patients have been able to reduce or eliminate opioid use,” Mason said. “There was a study done in Chicago with Illinois medical cannabis patients that showed a decrease in opioid use with Illinois medical cannabis patients who had a qualifying condition.”

Applications for medical marijuana recently reached more than 44,000. More than 2,000 applications have been received since Senate Bill 336 was signed and the number of medical cannabis patients has doubled in just over a year.

Mason attributes some of the increase to the expanded patient and physician awareness of the benefits of medical cannabis for certain patients including a large number of applicants who have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Its legal use as an alternative to prescription opioids is also boosting numbers, Mason said.

“I think that there is growing acceptance in the medical community of the idea that medical cannabis can be used potentially to reduce opioid use in patients,” she said.

S.B. 336 also removed the requirement for background checks and fingerprints, Mason said.

“Illinois was the last state that was still requiring those and it didn’t seem appropriate for patients with severe conditions,” she said.

The biggest effect of those requirements being eliminated is that it will help speed up the review and approval process for applicants, Mason said.

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