The fight for the legalization of medical marijuana in the Beehive State continued Wednesday as members of the Health and Human Services Interim Committee heard testimony on two separate proposals to allow the drug to be used in some circumstance with one modest proposal and the other more ambitious.
Lawmakers gave their stamp of approval to the former.
“Medical Cannabidiol Amendments,” which is being sponsored by Representative Brad Daw (Republican – Orem), would permit the use of cannabidiol (CBD), a marijuana extract, to treat a number of conditions. The dueling proposal, sponsored by Senator Mark Madsen (Republican – Saratoga Springs), calls for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the principal psychoactive constituent in cannabis, to be used rather than CBD.
Under Daw’s bill, patients with any of the following illnesses would be allowed to legally access the drug under Utah law: epilepsy, nausea and vomiting during chemotherapy, appetite stimulation caused by an HIV or AIDS infection, muscle spasticity or a movement disorder, complex regional pain syndrome, peripheral neuropathy caused by diabetes, post-herpetic neuralgia, pain related to HIV, pain related to cancer, pain occurring after and related to a stroke, and phantom limb pain. Prescribing doctors would gather data on the drug and present their research findings to the legislature when the law comes due for renewal.
Senator Evan Vickers (Republican – Cedar City), a pharmacist by profession, feels that the bill strikes a good balance between medical marijuana advocates and those who are hesitant. “We feel like this is the prudent manner that to allow for patients to be treated with a component of marijuana that can be considered medicinal. It doesn’t carry the harmful effects of THC and allowing patients to move forward to be treated, but in the same token narrowing the scope with qualifying illnesses and also the research component and move forward so we can gather more information on it.”
Madsen hopes to help as many people as possible with his medical marijuana legalization. “I believe that the people of Utah are at least as smart as the people in the other 23 states that have medicinal cannabis. If those that are currently being prescribed opiates and contributing to the opiate overdose epidemic that we have here, if the people in Utah are at least as smart as the people in the other 23 states we’ll be saving about seven lives a month because we lose about 22 people to prescription opiate overdoses in this state every year and in other states they’ve seen a 20 to 30 percent reduction in those overdose rates.”
Madsen pointed to the stark differences between the two pieces of legislation. “There are clearly differences in the history of the two bills, the underlying philosophy of the two bills, the communities that the bills are designed to serve. I think we will have an opportunity over the session to do what we’re supposed to do as an entire legislature and take this issue up.”
Senator Brian Shiozawa (Republican – Cottonwood Heights), an emergency room doctor, asked Madsen about whether he believes CBD will be as effective as THC in treating illnesses. “I believe no,” he replied.
The committee passed Daw’s bill out with a favorable recommendation. No action was taken on Madsen’s bill, which is still in the drafting stage. He assured lawmakers that the bill would be ready for the legislative session in January. “I intend to take this through the entire process,” Madsen told the committee.