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New proposal works to combat opioid epidemic through medical cannabis

Last year in Illinois more than 1,800 people died from an opioid overdose according to the Illinois Department of Human Services. (WICS)

For the first time in Illinois, a new proposal aims to combat the opioid epidemic by giving more people access to medical marijuana.

State Senator Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, proposed the Alternatives to Opioids Act, a bill which would allow people who have been prescribed opioids to apply for a medical marijuana card instead.

The goal of the bill is to help fight the opioid epidemic plaguing the United States.

It aims to help by giving people who rely on opioids for pain, another option.

"OxyContin was the only thing that allowed me to stand up," said Tom Utley, who has chronic pain.

Nearly a decade ago, Utley suffered a spinal cord injury.

His pain was unbearable, which led to his long-term use of opioids.

"It was to the point where I was taking 120, 20 mg OxyContin pills a month."

The pills were taking over his life.

“I would nod off in the middle of conversations with my mother and other people and then wake back up in the middle of it and pick back up like I'd never nodded off," said Utley.

After years of battling with chronic pain, Utley turned to an alternative treatment.

“With all the options that medical cannabis has and zero side effects and being able to be in control of my body again, I’ve given all of that up, it’s been great,” he said.

However, not everyone in Illinois can get a medical marijuana prescription.

There's a list of conditions to qualify, but the Alternatives to Opioids Act works to give people like Utley a different option than opioids.

"It would allow the doctor to substitute that opioid for cannabis,” explained Chris Stone, the CEO of HCI Alternatives.

Last year in Illinois more than 1,800 people died from an opioid overdose according to the Illinois Department of Human Services.

The proposed act hopes to reduce those numbers.

It will be voted on in Spring.

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