Local doctors weigh in on medical marijuana law

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by Nikki McGee, Fox Illinois

Local doctors weigh in on medical marijuana law. (WRSP)

The Governor just signed a new law allowing doctors to certify patients to use medical marijuana instead of opioids for pain. But are doctors actually on board with this alternative?

On Wednesday we reached out to several Springfield pain clinics that didn’t plan on using medical marijuana as an alternative for their patients, but would not explain why. Several other clinics said they were unclear what their policies will be.

Last year, an estimated 2,7000 Illinoisans lost their lives to opioids. Now Illinois lawmakers want to allow cannabis as an alternative for pain relief.

“Instead of them receiving an opioid prescription, the doctor’s going to certify them for their ailment to be able to get them an ability to be able to buy cannabis,” HCI Alternative CEO Chris Stone said.

Patients will then take that certification letter to the dispensary, where they can buy medical cannabis and will be given dosage instructions.

“It’s a very bold, very needed maneuver to do this,” Illinois Alternative Pain Management Dr. David Footerman said.

Dr. Footerman is open to using cannabis as an alternative to opioids for his patients. He travels three hours from Chicago to Springfield each week to see his patients.

“Patients who are at risk can now come and get cannabis in a medical way, so that they have a reliable source,” Dr. Footerman said. “Somewhere where they know it’s not going to be sprayed with street synthetic cannabinoids.”

But he said not all doctors are on board.

Others are using different forms of cannabis, like CBD oil, for pain management in their patients.

“They’ve had good relief with CBD oil and capsules to help manage the pain, to help them sleep, reduce some anxiety and even some depression,” said chiropractic physician Paul Venturini with the Advanced Center for Pain and Rehab. “And they’ve been able to get off some of the hardcore prescription meds, and they’ve been finding relief with CBD.”

Medical marijuana is not currently covered by insurance, another barrier patients face. Patients at HCI Alternatives in Springfield spend an average of $165 per visit. That can last them anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.

The qualifying pain certification from doctors will allow patients to get 90 days worth of medical cannabis. If they want more, they have to apply for a medical marijuana card, which can last for several years.

Dr. Footerman says medical marijuana can still be dangerous if paired with things like opioids, alcohol or lack of sleep. But he says he believes it is a safe alternative to opioids.

“In the vast majority of cases, that safety factor in cannabis is huge,” Dr. Footerman said. “And it is the reason why the Governor is absolutely right to have signed this into law. Thank God he’s done it; it’s going to save lives.”

Source: http://foxillinois.com/news/local/local-doctors-weigh-in-on-medical-marijuana-law-08-30-2018

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