A measure that could dramatically expand access to medical marijuana in Illinois — making it available as an opioid painkiller replacement and easing the application process for all who qualify — was signed into law by Gov. Bruce Rauner on Tuesday.
The new law is a response to the epidemic of overdose deaths from narcotics, which killed almost 2,000 people in the state in 2016 and an estimated 72,000 people nationwide last year. It would allow doctors to authorize medical marijuana for any patient who has or would qualify for a prescription for opioids like OxyContin, Percocet or Vicodin.
“We’ve got to do everything we can to stop this vicious epidemic,” the governor said as he signed the bill into law on Chicago’s West Side on Tuesday. “… We are creating an alternative to opioid addiction. … It’s clear that medical marijuana treats pain effectively, and is less addictive and disruptive than opioids.”
But the measure is also noteworthy for removing some of the major restrictions on the medical marijuana program in Illinois.