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Rauner signs bill allowing medical marijuana for pain relief

A move that could dramatically expand access to medical marijuana in Illinois ̵

1; as a replacement for opioid analgesics and to facilitate the application process for those who qualify – was signed by Governor Bruce Rauner on Tuesday. [19659006] The new law is a response to the epidemic of overdose deaths from drugs that killed nearly 2,000 people in the state in 2016 and an estimated 72,000 people nationwide in 2016. It would allow doctors to authorize medical marijuana for any patient who has or would get a prescription for opioids such as OxyContin, Percocet or Vicodin.

"We must do everything we can to stop this malignant epidemic," the governor said when he signed the bill on Chicago's West Side on Tuesday. "… we are creating an alternative to opioid addiction … It is clear that medical marijuana treats pain more effectively and is less addictive and more disruptive than opioids."

But the measure is also worth noting, some of the key limitations medical marijuana program in Illinois.

No more applicants will have to undergo fingerprints and criminal police checks. And those who fill out an online application with a doctor's license get a provisional registration to buy medical cannabis while they wait for state officials to finalize their request.

Rauner signed the bill Tuesday at the Chicago Recovery Alliance's nonprofit organization, which sells clean needles and overdoses, and reverses naloxone, and implements other programs to prevent overdose deaths from heroin.

Suzanne Carlberg-Racich, Alliance Research Director and Assistant Professor of Public Health at DePaul University, welcomes the new law as a way to prevent overdose deaths and provide less addictive treatment for pain relief

"This is a big step in the right direction, "she said. "I am pleased that there is an alternative to pain therapy that has no potential for fatal overdose."

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said the research has shown clear evidence that marijuana can be effective in treating pain and can reduce opioid use and overdose deaths from opioids. He cited a review by the National Academy of Sciences in which "substantial evidence" was found that marijuana is effective in treating chronic adult pain.

"And such initiatives just make sense," Shah said.

Shah said the elimination of background checks and fingerprints for applicants will take effect immediately, and all patients can now receive a preliminary approval to purchase medical marijuana immediately upon receipt of a receipt for payment from the state health department.

But it will take the state until December 1 to implement any new rules for the program, and will develop a new monitoring system for the program by early next year to ensure that opioid replacement patients do not come to multiple pharmacies Go and buy no more than 90 days of marijuana at a time. The 90-day period can be renewed by patient physicians.

Patients who qualify for medical marijuana for something other than opioid substitution may maintain their approval for 3 years.

Some Local Health Departments Now Provide Patient Services Complete Applications for Medical Marijuana

To qualify for medical cannabis in Illinois, patients must suffer from around 40 debilitating diseases listed in the law, including cancer, AIDS, and Multiple sclerosis. The program, which is one of the most restrictive of the 31 states that allow medical marijuana, has approved approximately 42,000 authorized patients who have had sales of approximately $ 200 million since November 2015. By contrast, about 2.3 million patients in Illinois received approximately 5 million opioid analgesics in 2017, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Although this includes individuals with multiple prescriptions, the number indicates the potential increase in the number of patients qualifying for medical cannabis.

The pilot program for medical cannabis expires in July 2020. But state legislators have proposed to legalize marijuana next year for over 18 year olds. Democratic candidate for governor, JB Pritzker, supports the measure, while Rauner opposes it.

Sen. Don Harmon, a Democrat from Oak Park who sponsored the bill, said that a patient who received a medical certificate for the use of medical marijuana instead of opioids could do so immediately without contacting the health department.

"It's an exit for opioid use," he said.

Harmon claimed that the measure "makes Illinois a national leader in opioid crisis."

In general, Rauner has opposed the expansion of the medical marijuana program, but a recent Pritzker poll puts pressure on him have exercised on him to support the politically popular measure. In addition, Rauner has recently approved other measures providing for coverage for opioid abuse and training for doctors on opioid prescriptions.

Kevin Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, expressed concerns about the spread of medical marijuana and warned that it could lead to more addiction, more drivers who are under the influence and more users suffering from the harmful effects the drug on attention, memory, decision-making and brain development.

"It makes no sense from a scientific perspective," said Sabet. "The most comprehensive study on the subject has just been published in The Lancet, stating that marijuana does not help with pain or reduce opioid use.

" From a political point of view, "Sabet added," it is likely that he feels Print by JB Pritzker, who welcomed the pot with open arms.

The Lancet study, published by drug abuse researchers in July, included interviews and surveys of about 1,500 non-cancer patients in Australia with chronic pain opioid prescriptions, and after four years, users who consumed cannabis reported more pain than humans. who did not use cannabis without cannabis reducing opioid use.

The authors urged large clinical trials to further investigate the effects of marijuana on pain therapy.

But in some states that have legalized medical marijuana, some have studies Cannabis continues to be illegal under federal law.

Tim McAnarney, an Illinois lobbyist with Sabet's group, said he does not oppose medical marijuana or decriminalization, however of legalization and considers the new law too expansive

The bill should have been much stricter on who has access to marijuana, "he said. Biscuits, sweets and lollipops containing medical marijuana are dangerous for children, he said.

Aaron Weiner, director of addiction services at Linden Oaks Behavioral Health in Naperville, said the legislation was a missed opportunity to correct a "deeply deficient" medicine marijuana program in Illinois

Medical marijuana is available in extracts containing up to 93 percent THC, the active ingredient that powers up users whose effects have never been adequately studied, he said. And Illinois medical marijuana patients can buy up to 2.5 ounces every two weeks, enough for about 10 joints a day, far more than typically needed and more than enough to develop an addiction, he said.

Weiner was ready to debate marijuana policy with a sponsor of the Legalization Act, Senator Heather Steans, Tuesday night at LaGrange Village Hall

The leaders of the medical marijuana industry were excited by the news that Rauner would support the legislative measure ,

Ben Kovler, founder and chairman of GTI, which has both incubators and ambulances in Illinois, released a statement calling Tuesday "a great day" for fighting the opioid epidemic and saving lives.

"Now those suffering from pain can opt for medical marijuana zero deaths related to overdose – via opioids," he said. "Numerous studies show that marijuana is effective in treating pain and we are thrilled that people in Illinois now have this choice."

One patient at the signing charged for medical marijuana with the help of taking opioid drugs. Melissa Hallbeck, 41, from Sugar Grove, co-founder of the Midwest Cannabis Education Conference, said she was addicted to Norco after several surgeries for interstitial cystitis causing severe pelvic pain.

Non-psychoactive cannabis oil allowed her to work again and take care of her 6-year-old daughter.

"She gave me my life back," she said.

Given that proponents on every page of the topic can state statistics to secure their positions, Rauner attributed to patients' opinions like Hallbeck's convincing him to allow marijuana as a medical option.

In fact, officials from the Illinois Department of Public Health helped negotiate changes to the bill to allow immediate patient approval, and said elimination of background checks would reduce workload and delays in processing requests.

Illinois was the only state that required fingerprints and criminal background checks that prohibited certain convicted offenders from receiving medical marijuana. Eliminating this restriction will be a blessing for some of the more than 600 people who were denied a license last year, including those who wanted to get opioids from drug trafficking, attorneys said.

But the governor emphasized that he continues to object to legalizing marijuana, based on a conversation with the governor of Colorado, who said that it has caused problems as more people drive with marijuana in their system.

Republican MP Kelly Cassidy, co-sponsor of the Opioid Act, responded to Colorado's overall successful experience, with some issues being addressed in the pending legislation for the legalization of Pot.

The consensus among several of the speakers was that this will likely be the largest extension of the medical marijuana program to date. Even if only a small percentage of the millions of opioid painkillers prescribed in Illinois use marijuana instead, Shah said it would probably save lives.

© 2018 The Chicago Tribune

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