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Illinois Opioid Alternative Program for Physicians

Illinois Opioid Alternative Program for Physicians

Medical marijuana as an alternative for pain management.

Prescription drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. Medical marijuana is now being recognized as an alternative and effective treatment for pain management.

A study published by JAMA in 2014 showed that legal, medical marijuana programs are associated with a reduction in the use of opioids. States with medical marijuana laws had a 24.8 percent lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared to states without these laws.

The Illinois Opioid Alternative Pilot Program (OAPP) requires physicians to be the gatekeepers who control access to medical marijuana. Doctors of medicine or osteopathy who have a current and valid Illinois license under the Medical Practice Act and a current, valid Illinois controlled substances license are allowed to certify a qualifying patient for medical marijuana use. No other licensed professionals (including dentists) may do so. The physician must also have a bona fide physician-patient relationship with the qualifying patient.

Only takes five days to become dependent on opioids
Every eleven minutes someone in America dies from an opioid overdose
There are zero recorded cases of deaths from cannabis
OAPP registration process

If the information and online certification have been completed correctly by the physician and the registration and co-payment has been completed and paid for by the patient, then an auto-generated email will be sent to the patient with their 90-day OAPP medical cannabis card. This will provide the patient with immediate access to visit their designated dispensary.

Online physician registration

Register with the Illinois Department of Health (IDPH) Opioid Alternative Pilot Program (OAPP). You will need the following information to complete your registration

  • Verification of license credentials
  • Select secure physician PIN for submission of patient certifications - This becomes your digital signature and cannot be shared.

Certifying your patient

The physician needs to certify that the patient has a current prescription for an opioid OR patient could be prescribed an opioid-based on generally accepted standards of care.

  • The patient must be 21 years or older
  • Complete an in-person, full assessment of the patient’s medical history and current medical condition, including a physical examination, not more than 30 days prior to submission of certification
  • Electronically submit patient certification via IDPH OAPP website
  • Patient information requirements for certification
    • Name, DOB, last four SSN, date of in-person exam

Patient registration

Patients can register online for the OAPP within 30 days of the in-office visit. Patients will need the following information to submit their online application.

  • Valid email address
  • IL Drivers Licence or State ID
  • Electronic proof of address documentation
  • An electronic passport style photograph
  • Designate dispensary
  • Credit or debit card for $10 co-payment for each 90-day registration

Application assistance is available at our Verilife dispensaries.

Register with the Illinois Department of Health Opioid Alternative pilot program


If after 90 days a patient still qualifies for the OAPP the patient will need to re-enroll.

  • In-person office visit with their physician
  • New physician certification submitted online by their doctor that is registered with the IDPH OAPP.
  • Updated registration and $10 co-payment

The physician-patient relationship

Physicians are not “prescribing” medical marijuana.

Instead, a physician is asked to certify that the patient has a current prescription for an opioid OR patient could be prescribed an opioid-based on generally accepted standards of care and that a bona-fide relationship has been established.

A physician should be able to comfortably certify that the qualifying patient is under the physician’s care, either as the patient’s primary care physician or for his or her medical condition.

Physicians may accept payment from a qualifying patient for the fee associated with the examination required before recommending medical cannabis.
However, physicians may not accept any remuneration for making a medical cannabis certification, nor can they accept any remuneration from any dispensary for such a recommendation. See 410 ILCS 130/35.

Physicians are entitled to a “safe harbor” under Illinois state law.
The Medical Disciplinary Board may not discipline physicians for making a proper certification for medical cannabis to qualifying patients. See 410 ILCS 130/25(e).

Unlike other pharmaceuticals, physicians cannot “overprescribe” medical cannabis.
Physicians are not required to regulate dosage, strain or administration of medical cannabis. Under the law, qualifying patients are unable to procure unlimited amounts of medical cannabis.

For more information visit IDHP

1.Shah A, Hayes CJ, Martin BC. Characteristics of Initial Prescription Episodes and Likelihood of Long-Term Opioid Use — United States, 2006–2015. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2017;66:265–269. DOI: 2.CDC/NCHS, National Vital Statistics System, Mortality. CDC Wonder, Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services, CDC; 2017. 3. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration, 2017 Drugs of Abuse, DEA Resource Guide.

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