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Medical marijuana company pushes pot over opioids for pain relief

A mock medical marijuana pill bottle falls to the bottom of a fully-functioning vending machine set up by a company promoting the concept of opting for marijuana over opioids. | Adam Thorp / Sun-Times

It didn’t take long for Illinois’ young medical marijuana industry to prepare to move into the market opened by a new law allowing patients to opt for weed instead of opioids for some medical conditions.

Cresco Labs launched an awareness campaign around the options opened by the new legislation Wednesday, just a day after Gov. Bruce Rauner signed the Alternatives to Opioids Act.

Their center-piece: a faux-drug dispensing vending machine, set up on the proverbial front step of the Thompson Center in downtown Chicago, Illinois state government’s home away from home.

Though the pill bottles inside the vending machine were labeled with the names of opioid medications and marijuana strains, they contained neither. Instead, each slip of paper.

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“WHO SAYS THE EPIDEMIC IS OUR ONLY CHOICE ? When you’re in pain, opioid prescriptions are the norm. Addiction is the norm. Overdose is the norm. That’s just the way it’s been, but we don’t need to accept it. Opioid patients deserve an alternative: medical cannabis,” each paper read.

The multi-state COPE (Crescolabs Opioid Prescription Exchange) campaign was designed by Chicago-based advertising company Tom, Dick and Harry.

“This campaign was developed as multiple states — not only Illinois, but New York, Pennsylvania — have introduced similar legislation to allow more people access to medical cannabis who are suffering from pain, in one way or another. They’re usually utilizing opiates as a pain-moderator,” Cresco president Joe Caltabiano said. “Giving people alternatives to opiates we thought was a logical step.”