As the opioid epidemic rages throughout the country (including Illinois), federal, state, and local governments are looking at alternatives for pain treatment.

One of the alternatives being closely looked at is the use of medical marijuana for the relief of chronic pain symptoms.

Now, Illinois lawmakers in Springfield are turning their sights in that direction as well.

Yesterday, the Illinois Senate voted 44-6 to allow doctors to prescribe medical marijuana as an alternative to opioids . Those addicted to opioids would also be eligible to apply for a medical card to use marijuana.

Don Harmon, the state senator behind the legislation, points out that the opioid epidemic in Illinois kills thousands of people every year, and costs the state over a billion dollars.

To receive medical marijuana in Illinois, a patient must meet a list of conditions, and if this legislation passes, any condition that is treated by opioids would be added to the conditions list.

Governor Bruce Rauner's office said the governor is open to all potential solutions to the opioid crisis, although when a Cook County circuit court ruling in February approved medical marijuana for the condition known as Intractable Pain Disease, the Rauner administration appealed.

The state’s medical marijuana program, passed in 2013, is one of the most restrictive in the country. It currently requires participants to be suffering from a debilitating condition, like seizures or Parkinson’s disease, in order to qualify. As of January 2018, about 30,000 Illinois residents have medical marijuana cards.

The bill moves on to the House.