Can marijuana really replace prescription opioids for pain? Some get relief but ‘it’s not a home run.’

Marijuana advocates were overjoyed this week when Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner legalized medical cannabis as a substitute for prescription painkillers. The Marijuana Policy Project called it a “big win” for patients, and officials say it will greatly expand the number of patients, possibly saving lives.

But the new state law begs the question: How effective is cannabis for treating pain? And how well does it work to reduce opioid use and overdose deaths?

The answers, of course, depend on whom you ask, be it doctors, researchers or patients. Some pain physicians love it. Many addiction specialists, not so much. The National Institute on Drug Abuse has decades of research on the negative effects of marijuana, while the Center for Medical Cannabis Research in San Diego has mostly positive reports. And patients have their own preferences.

Some patients said they’re grateful for an alternative to pain pills that some say make them groggy.

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