SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Gov. Bruce Rauner has signed a law allowing medical marijuana to be used as a painkiller instead of highly addictive opioids.
The law the Republican signed Tuesday is effective immediately. It allows physicians to temporarily prescribe cannabis for pain relief as a means to combat a growing opioid-addiction epidemic.
The governor was initially a staunch critic of medical marijuana use. He said he has spoken to patients, physicians, experts and done research.
“It’s clear that medical cannabis treats pain effectively and it is less addictive and less destructive than opioids” the governor said.
The Illinois Department of Public Health reports that 11,000 people have died from opioid overdoses since 2008. Opioids caused nearly double the number of 2016 deaths as traffic accidents.
Rep. Kelly Cassidy was the House sponsor. The Chicago Democrat says the plan reforms pain treatment and provides more options to patients who would otherwise be faced with choosing addictive opioids.
The law creates a pilot program which includes safeguards against abuse of the medical marijuana program.
Melissa Hallbeck, who has a severe abdominal disease and was prescribed opioids for four years after several surgeries, now uses medical cannabis.
“I make my own topical cannabis oil that has no psychoactive affect to it whatsoever when I put it on,” Melissa Hallbeck said.
It’s been a year since she’s been off narcotic pain killers. Hallbeck said she’s gotten her life back.
“I’m active with my 6-year-old son. I’m doing all the activities I used to. Putting myself back through school through academic scholarships. It’s made a huge difference,” she said.
The bill was SB336 .