Illinois dispensaries processing medical marijuana apps

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois dispensaries have begun to process applications for medical marijuana through a state pilot program that offers patients access to the drug as an alternative to opioids.

Enrollment in the state’s Opioid Alternative Pilot Program began Thursday, The State Journal-Register reported.

The state Department of Public Health’s program will allow medical marijuana to be used in place of prescription painkillers. Patients previously had to have one of about 40 conditions, such as cancer or AIDS, to qualify for medical marijuana.

State officials hope the program will reduce opioid overdoses deaths. There were more than 2,000 opioid overdose deaths in Illinois in 2017, according to a report from the state Department of Public Health. The number of deaths has steadily increased from about 1,200 in 2014, the report said.

The expanded medical marijuana access is expected to double the number of medical marijuana users over the next year, said Dan Linn, the executive director of the Illinois chapter of the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws. The increased availability could help patients manage their pain more safely, he said.

“We think that this could save people’s lives, and we’re not exaggerating,” Linn said.

To qualify for the pilot program, patients must be certified by a doctor. Patients can then register for the program at a dispensary or the local health department for a $10 fee. People who qualify for the program must visit a doctor every 90 days in order to renew the certification.

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