Illinois lawmakers have passed a measure that would allow medical cannabis patients to use cannabis as a substitute for prescription painkillers.
Lawmakers first legalized medical cannabis in Illinois in 2013, with legal sales beginning in 2015.
The program was very limited when it was first launched, and even several years later the program is still not nearly as large as other states.
For instance, Michigan has over 250,000 medical cannabis patients compared to Illinois’ 37,000, despite Illinois having roughly 20% more people living there.
With the recent passage of the painkiller substitute measure, the program could expand dramatically. But there’s still one major hurdle left.
Will Illinois’ Governor sign the legislation?
Just because Illinois’ Legislature passed the bill does not mean that it will become law. The bill still has to be signed by Illinois’ Governor Bruce Rauner.
Multiple times in the past Governor Rauner has blocked attempts to expand the Illinois medical cannabis program.
This time could be different though because of the level of bipartisan support the painkiller substitute measure received and the ongoing opioid issue in Illinois.
Opioid overdoses in Illinois have been responsible for 11,000 deaths since 2008.
The legislation sitting on Governor Rauner’s desk also eliminates fingerprint and criminal background check requirements.
The combination of reforms would greatly improve Illinois’ medical cannabis program and boost enrollment considerably, which is something that the Green Flower team is definitely rooting for.
Studies have shown that cannabis reduces painkiller use
The science is clear – cannabis is an effective substitute for opioids. Below are a handful of studies that make the case:
- “Medical cannabis laws produce a statistically significant decrease in opioid prescription rates.” – Biles (2018)
- “The treatment of chronic pain with medicinal cannabis in this open-label, prospective cohort resulted in improved pain and functional outcomes, and a significant reduction in opioid use.” – Haroutounian S, Ratz Y, Ginosar Y, Furmanov K, Saifi F, Meidan R, Davidson E. (2016)
- “Among respondents that regularly used opioids, over three-quarters (76.7%) indicated that they reduced their use since they started medical cannabis.” – Piper BJ1,2,3, DeKeuster RM4,5, Beals ML6, Cobb CM4,7, Burchman CA8,9, Perkinson L10, Lynn ST10, Nichols SD11, Abess AT12 (2017)
- “Among study participants, medical cannabis use was associated with a 64% decrease in opioid use (n = 118), decreased number and side effects of medications, and an improved quality of life (45%). ” – Boehnke KF, Litinas E, Clauw DJ. (2016)
- “Sixty seven percent of patients stopped using opioid medications after using medical cannabis. In addition, 29 percent of patients reported a decrease in the number of opioid medications after starting medical cannabis.” – Aclara Research (2017)
Those studies are just a handful of what is out there, and more are being published all the time. The amount of testimonials out there is considerable as well.
Cannabis clearly works as a substitute for prescription painkillers and Illinois as well as every other state needs to respect the available science.
What you can do to help get the measure signed
The number one way that you can help get this measure passed if you live in Illinois is to contact Governor Rauner’s office right now.
Make sure to point out that the bill was passed with bipartisan support and that the science supports it.
Urge Governor Rauner to give medical cannabis patients in his state the right to make the safer choice without fear of prosecution.
Tell him to give suffering patients safe access to a proven medicine rather than force them to have to continue using much more harmful prescription painkillers.
Step up and do your part. The patients in Illinois are counting on it!