Illinois’ opioid-alternative program began processing medical-marijuana applications this week with medical-marijuana dispensaries in Springfield and Grandview getting calls on Thursday.

Even if one does not have one of the approximately 40 qualifying health conditions for the state’s ongoing program, they may still be able to get legal cannabis through the state’s Opioid Alternative Pilot Program. Thursday was the first day of enrollment for the program which legislation passed last year by the Democratic-controlled General Assembly and signed by then-Gov. Bruce Rauner.

The state had approved applications for 52,365 qualifying patients in the regular medical-marijuana program as of Jan. 4.

According to a report from the Illinois Department of Public Health, there were 2,202 opioid overdose deaths in Illinois in 2017.

“We’re beyond excited,” remarked Christine Karhliker, community outreach coordinator for HCI Alternatives. HCI operates marijuana dispensaries at 628 E. Adams St. in Springfield and in Collinsville.

According to Karhliker, the number of patients served by the two dispensaries is expected to double in the next six to 12 months.

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