Illinois governor assents to Medical Marijuana Program Expansion

Published On September 20, 2018 | By William Thomas | Health

In Illinois healthcare news,  Governor Bruce Rauner has signed into law a bill that expands the state’s medical marijuana program in an effort to deal with the opioid epidemic,.

Rauner, who has been opposed to expanding the program, said his approval of the new law was “not about personal opinions about cannabis. It’s about giving people more control over their own health care and pain-relief options.”

Rauner signed the bill into law at the Chicago Recovery Alliance, a nonprofit group that provides addiction services–including needle exchange programs and the distribution of naloxone, a drug that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

With the new law, patients who currently receive subscriptions for opioids can instead opt for medical marijuana.

The new law waives the need for patients to undergo criminal background checks and have their fingerprints taken in order to qualify for the new medical marijuana program.

The Alternative to Opioid Act provides a list of 41 debilitating conditions, including cancer, AIDS and multiple sclerosis, with which a patient must be afflicted to qualify for the program.

The opioid epidemic is a concern for Illinois, where 1,946 were killed in 2016. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) says this is an 82 percent increase from 2013.

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported that deaths related to opioid abuse had gone up by 13 percent from 2016 to 2017.

The number of deaths increased by 13 percent from 2016 to 2017.

A total of 72,000 people died from opioid misuse across U.S. in 2017.

The Illinois Department of Public Health said much of the overdose deaths could be attributed to an increase in the use of synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.

“Synthetic opioids are fast acting and can be hundreds to thousands of times more toxic than heroin. Heroin and other street drugs are often mixed with fentanyl to increase their effects, which can quickly become a lethal combination. Between 2013 and 2016, overdose deaths in Illinois attributable to synthetic opioids increased tenfold,” the department said on its website.

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