Under the new Illinois’ Opioid Alternative Pilot Program it now provides those prescribed opioids access to medical marijuana. Before, patients had to have one of the 40 qualifying conditions, which included as cancer or AIDS, to use medical cannabis.
To qualify for the program, an applicant must have a prescription for an opioid or a doctor must determine that one could be prescribed. However, before a patient can join, they must visit a registered doctor, who will electronically submit a physician certification to the state.
The state offers the option to the patient that allows them to register on the program’s website, or solicit help registering at a dispensary or local health department. Patients are required to provide copies of their driver’s licenses or state IDs and a passport-style photo and pay a low fee of $10.
After the patient has been uploaded into the state’s system, they will be approved for 90 days in the program and receive registration certificates via email or mail. They’ll be able to buy marijuana shortly after registering without any complications.
Industry operators assume the new program will dramatically increase support in Illinois’ broader medical marijuana pilot program. More than 52,000 patients were enrolled in January when the state last provided a count.
According to states records, usually, medical cannabis programs will reach 1 to 2 percent of a normal state’s population. For Illinois, that means 128,000 to 256,000 people. However, with medical marijuana as a legal replacement for prescription opioids, the reach could increase to 3 to 4 percent of the population.
In the past couple of months, the amount of patients approved to use medical marijuana has been increasing at a quicker pace as the stigma circling the drug, which is still federally illegal, begins to weaken.
In just one year the Illinois medical marijuana program will expire, handing over the responsibility to make it permanent to the new governor, J.B. Pritzker, and state lawmakers.
In August the law Rauner it to also denied the demand for patients to give fingerprints and succumb to a background check before enrolling for Illinois’ broader medical marijuana pilot program. Additionally, the Department of Public Health will momentarily give applicants temporary access while their requests are reviewed allowing struggling patients to receive the medication they deserve.
“It’s going to change a lot,” a former opioid patient said. “I’ll know what I’m getting now, and I can now function. ”