Sen. Don Harmon

A proposed bill by state Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) that would allow patients prescribed opioids for pain relief to have the option of using medical cannabis instead is headed to the desk of Gov. Bruce Rauner.

The Alternatives to Opioids Act also would fast-track the issuance of medical cannabis permits for patients, irrespective of the illness that allowed them access to a medical cannabis card, Harmon said in a telephone interview.

Harmon said the bill originally aimed at giving patients an alternative to opioids, which have led to widespread addiction to the drugs across the state and nation.

“Opioid addiction takes the lives of thousands of Illinoisans every year,” Harmon said in a recent press release. “We should be open to any reasonable alternative treatment – and no one has ever died of a cannabis overdose.”

He said he worked with the Department of Public Health to craft the bill. That brought about significant changes to the proposal, which now also would fast-track the issuance of medical cannabis cards for any condition, he said.

Harmon said some cardholders have had to wait more than 100 days to make it through the process of getting a permit. If his bill is signed by the governor, they could receive a provisional permit the same day they apply.

The Department of Health also requested a change in the bill that also would eliminate a requirement that permit holders submit to background checks and fingerprinting.

“I don’t know why we require people to submit fingerprints and background checks to get medicine,” Harmon said.

Harmon told Wednesday Journal that opioid overdoses kill more people in Illinois than gun violence, and the drug recently took the life of one of his own family members.

Robert “Bud” Ragalie, 30, of River Forest and Oak Park, Harmon’s cousin, died on June 15, Harmon said.

“This is a crisis that doesn’t respect any artificial line, and this week it was my family,” he said. 

CONTACT: tim@oakpark.com

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