Harmon bill seeks cannabis alternative for opioids

People prescribed opioids could get temporary medical cannabis card

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

In an effort to reduce the number opioid prescriptions, Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) has introduced a bill that would fast-track temporary medical cannabis cards to patients as an alternative.

The Alternative to Opioids Act expedites the application process to 14 days for those prescribed opioid-based painkillers. Those accepted would get a 12-month temporary registry card for cannabis.

Medical cannabis has been legal in Illinois since the establishment of the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program in 2013. The drug is legal for medical uses in 29 states.

Harmon said in a telephone interview that the bill was inspired by patients who testified before the Senate Executive Committee last spring about getting addicted to opioids.

Patients described the difficulty in weening themselves off opioids. He said the bill aims to reduce the use of such drugs.

"With the opioid crisis rapidly getting worse, it's clear that what we're doing now isn't working," Harmon said in a press release. "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."

Harmon noted that more than 60,000 people died from drug overdoses in the U.S. in 2016, "more than the total number of U.S. soldiers killed in the Vietnam War."

He said that opioid-related deaths have increased 120 percent in Illinois from 2014 to 2015, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Asked whether he was concerned about the argument that cannabis can be a gateway drug for more powerful sedatives, Harmon said, "I don't know that I believe it."

"I know heroin is addictive and opioids are addictive, and they're ruining lives and killing people," he said. "I'm willing to take the risk that medical cannabis is a better substitute.

"I think it's important to build a model that allows patients to quickly transition from opioids to something else," he added. "I'm optimistic that medical cannabis is an appropriate alternative."

CONTACT: tim@oakpark.com

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Tommy McCoy  

Posted: November 23rd, 2017 4:08 PM

Bruce Kline, the only real studies done on the usage of cannabis seems to be from the users. I know Tommy Chong, and talked with him last week and he attributes the usage of cannabis to curing his two illnesses and it is great for anxiety. A good dispensary has people who are knowledgeable from their own experiences on what is best to treat what. It is interesting that the Senator referenced Viet Nam to the number of deaths because cannabis was used by many Service Men, as a way to reduce anxiety and others used alcohol. If you want studies then push for studies because the Federal government is not doing it and don't consider it legal

Bruce Kline  

Posted: November 22nd, 2017 9:17 PM

This is one of the few things I agree with the Senator. However, the bigger issue in the long run, is that the DEA designation of marijuana as a schedule I drug, makes meaningful research in regards to marijuana, leading to evidence based therapy, virtually impossible.

Beth Norton  

Posted: November 22nd, 2017 5:41 PM

If we want to get technical about gateway drugs let's be honest Alcohol is the biggest gateway drug out there . The Majority of people try pot only after experimenting with alcohol first. Medical marijuana can be a positive life changer for many dealing with chronic health/pain issues, that does not mean all those people will end up on heroin later. It means they are choosing a painkiller with a million less side effects than the pharmaceuticals out there they previously needed to relied on.

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