Measure would provide options to prescription painkillers

SPRINGFIELD — Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) introduced a measure today aimed at tackling the opioid crisis by providing access to medical alternatives to prescription painkillers.

The Alternatives to Opioids Act would allow people who have been prescribed opioids for a medical condition to apply for a temporary medical cannabis card instead. The application process for these individuals would be expedited to 14 days, and if accepted they would receive a 12-month registry card.

“With the opioid crisis rapidly getting worse, it’s clear that what we’re doing now isn’t working,” Harmon said. “Research has shown that medical cannabis can treat the same conditions for which opioids are prescribed. With thousands of people from every part of our state dying from opioid addiction, it would be irresponsible for us to not consider any safe alternative treatment.”

Concern over the opioid epidemic is growing, as more than 60,000 people in the United States died from a drug overdose in 2016, more than the total number of U.S. soldiers killed in the Vietnam War. In Illinois, the opioid-related death rate increased 120 percent from 2014 to 2015, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We know that opioids are dangerously addictive – people can become dependent after only 2 to 3 days of regular use as directed by a doctor,” Harmon said. “We should be actively helping people who are addicted to opioids instead of treating them like criminals.”

Illinois created the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program in 2013 and is one of 29 states to have legalized medical cannabis.