The Illinois House and Senate have approved Bill 336 that will allow marijuana to be administered to opioid addicts in attempts to wean then off prescription drugs.
If final approval is given by Governor Bruce Rauner, the new Bill will also scrap the necessity for patients to be fingerprinted or to undergo criminal background checks.
Half a million people died from drug overdoses
Close to 500,000 people died in the U.S. from prescription drug overdoses in a 10-year-period ending 2014, according to the Disease Control and Prevention Centers. In Illinois, 11,000 people have died from overdosing on opioids since 2008.
The cold hard facts are that no deaths have ever been reported from overdosing on marijuana, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Approval of the Bill will undoubtedly see a substantial increase in the use of weed in Illinois where there are only 37,000 registered medical marijuana patients at present compared with the staggering eight million prescriptions filled in the State in 2015.
No more fingerprinting or background checks
Apart from the tacit acknowledgement that marijuana has effective and far-reaching uses in the medical fieldthe Bill also addresses two thorny issues – that of medical marijuana patients being subjected to finger-printing and criminal background checks. These form part of Illinois’ Medical Cannabis Pilot Program that was launched in 2015 and ends mid-2020.
Officials in the Illinois Department of Public Health apparently support the move to end background checks because these cause bottlenecks and delay approving patients for medical marijuana programs, according to Senator Don Harmon, the original sponsor of Bill 336. Their co-operation, he says, could be an indicator that Governor Rauner may relent and sign his approval for the new Bill.
Harmon says he was impressed by testimony from patients at recent hearings in Springfield who had either reduced or totally eliminated their use of opioids such as Vicodin by switching to marijuana. Harmon says this testimony clearly underscored two facts – opioids kill, marijuana doesn’t.
If Bill 336 comes into play, medical patients will not be denied access to marijuana if they have criminal convictions and their doctors will be able to prescribe marijuana for collection at a registered dispensary, eliminating the present four-month wait for approval by State officials.
Whether or not Governor Rauner will sign the Bill only time will tell because he has sternly opposed any expansion of medical marijuana in the past.
Governor Rauner is opposing another Bill calling for the legalization, taxation and regulation of recreational marijuana. Political analysts predict that Rauner may, however, support Bill 336 because he will be opposing Democrat J.B. Pritzker, a supporter of decriminalizing pot for recreational use when voters go to the polls in November to elect a new Governor.
Fewer prescriptions are written for opioids and fewer deaths are recorded from overdosing in those States that have legalized medical marijuana, according to several studies.
Evidence proving the efficacy of marijuana in the treatment of a variety of medical conditions has been substantial, according to the National Academies of Sciences. Cannabis is being used in the treatment of conditions such as chemotherapy, chronic pain, multiple sclerosis and seizures.
But the FDA zero-tolerance stance remains unmoved.
Meanwhile, the Illinois General Assembly has given the go-ahead for the cultivation and processing of hemp plants containing less than 0.3 percent THC. Industrial hemp had wide production uses, ranging from concrete to textiles. Governor Rauner also has to put his stamp of approval on this decision