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Illinois Lawmakers Consider Medical Marijuana's Effect On Opioid Addiction


Medical marijuana is still new to Illinois, but some lawmakers are taking a look at expanding its use to help stem the opioid epidemic.

State senators heard from recovering opioid addicts on how marijuana has helped them manage chronic pain from injuries. Ingalore Wood of Auburn said opiates made her angry and reluctant to leave the house. Then she switched to medical marijuana.

“I’m more outgoing, I go places," she said. "My nephew hadn’t seen me for six years, and he’s like, ‘Aunt Lore, you’re back,’ and I said, ‘What do you mean I’m back? I’ve always been here,’ and he said, ‘No it wasn’t you, but you’ve been here.’"

Lawmakers also heard from Dr. Charles Bush Joseph, a Chicago orthopedic surgeon. He said he couldn't operate on patients in the past who had become too tolerant of opioid painkillers.

“And I just remember two patients who came back to me," Joseph said, "and said ‘Listen, Doc, I’m off the stuff.’ He goes, ‘I want you to take another shot at my shoulder.’ And I said, ‘How’d you get off?’ and he said, ‘Well listen, I’m smoking a lot of weed.’”

Illinois legalized marijuana for medical use four years ago. Of the 25 states with such programs, Illinois has the most restrictions for eligibility.

Tom reports on statehouse issues for NPR Illinois. He's currently a Public Affairs Reporting graduate program student at the University of Illinois Springfield. He graduated from Macalester College. Tom is from New York City where he also did stand-up and improv and wrote for the Awl and WNYC public radio.