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Are Your Patients Asking for Medical Cannabis as an Alternative to Opioids?
Posted on: 2/11/2019

Opioid deaths in Illinois increased 13 percent from 2016 to 2017, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. The goal of the Opioid Alternative Pilot Program is to reduce opioid overdoses and deaths.

Illinois enacted a new law last summer creating the Opioid Alternative Pilot Program (OAPP), which officially launched on Jan. 31, 2019.

In a nutshell, the OAPP offers physicians an additional approach to treat patients with chronic or acute conditions that might otherwise result in opioid prescriptions: the option of certifying the patient for medical cannabis.

How OAPP works

Before patients can access medical cannabis in lieu of an opioid, their physician must first certify that the patient has a medical condition for which an opioid has been or could be prescribed based on generally accepted standards of care. 

The physician certification process is entirely online. The physician submits a physician certification using the Illinois Cannabis Tracking System (ICTS), the web portal developed to facilitate this process.

To be able to certify a patient, the physician must be licensed to practice in Illinois and hold a valid Illinois Controlled Substances License at the time of issuing the physician certification. The certification form must include a statement that there is a bona-fide physician-patient relationship with the qualifying patient, and that the physician is treating or managing treatment of the patient’s healthcare.


Once patients receive the physician certification, they must register online using the ICTS. When the registration is complete, a registry card will be sent to patients via email, providing immediate access to any Illinois medical cannabis dispensary.

Physician certifications under the OAPP are valid for 90 days after the date of the certification, but can be renewed if the physician determines that the patient would benefit from continued enrollment in the OAPP.

Patients qualifying for the OAPP must be at least 21 years old, must be a resident of Illinois, and cannot possess a Commercial Driver's License or School Bus Permit. Registered patients are eligible to purchase 2.5 ounces of medical cannabis every 14 days. The patient must pay a $10 fee for each 90-day registration period.

Important to note: The OAPP is a separate program from the Medical Cannabis Pilot Program (MCPP), which is limited to patients diagnosed with a qualifying debilitating medical condition.

If your patient needs help with the OAPP application, free assistance is available here.

For more information, access the Illinois Department of Public Health’s comprehensive slide deck on the OAPP.

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