For those who believe marijuana could prove a safe, effective alternative to opioids, they are about to get a major test case in the state of Illinois.

Under a new law signed by Governor Bruce Rauner, doctors now can prescribe medical marijuana to patients who already have qualified for prescription opioid drugs such as OxyContin or Percocet.

The reason is straightforward. Prescription opioids are considered by the Centers for Disease Control to play a large part in the current epidemic of drug overdoses. The total number of opioid-related deaths reached about 72,000 in 2017, according to the agency.

In Illinois alone, almost 2,000 people died from an opioid overdose, according to the Chicago Tribune.

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