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A public panel discussion on the benefits of medical cannabis legalization was held at Provo City Library June 16. The event, sponsored by Libertas Institute and the Drug Policy Project of Utah, was part of a community outreach initiative to foster public awareness and gain support for the S.B. 259 Fourth Substitute Medical Cannabis Amendment, sponsored by Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Saratoga Springs.
Over 200 attendees showed up to listen to Madsen explain the new amendment and to hear four panel members share their personal stories of how medical cannabis has helped their lives.
He will propose a similar bill during the 2016 legislative session, which, if approved, will go into effect December 2016. Last year, the Hemp Extract Registration Act, another Bill championed by Madsen was passed. It legalized the use cannabidiol (CBD) oil for the treatment of epilepsy. Under the Hemp Extract Registration Act, only those individuals diagnosed specifically with Intractable epilepsy are eligible for CBD treatment, and the psychoactive property in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is limited to less than 0.3%.
The current Bill would repeal the Hemp Extract Registration Act by increasing the eligibility criterion to include immune deficiency syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, chronic and severe pain, and post-traumatic stress disorder. It would also ease the restrictions on THC content, which could be one reason the bill is being met with strong opposition.
Madsen said that this Amendment is about making it viable for individuals to have access to cannabis as medicine. It will not allow marijuana to be grown in individual homes and people will not be allowed to smoke it.
One panel member, Tenille Farr, said she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma while pregnant with her son. Unwilling to risk chemotherapy during her pregnancy, Farr searched for other options. When nothing else worked she decided to leave her family and go out of state to try cannabis therapy. She said since using the medication, her tumors have not grown and her baby is 6 months old and healthy.
Madsen hopes the new legislation will prevent residents from leaving their Utah homes and families to seek treatment in other states.
David Yells is the dean of the UVU College of Humanities and Social Science where he teaches pharmacology. He said having medical marijuana as an option is reasonable as long as physicians are deciding what’s appropriate.
He said he believes a lot of what is holding up legalization is the stigma surrounding the use of the plant, since a lot of people still have the view of marijuana as a bad drug.
However, “Developing a drug with psychoactive properties is something that shouldn’t be done lightly. It’s often difficult to do clinical trials on children. There isn’t a clear consensus on developmental effects of marijuana based products on children, particularly long-term outcomes,” Yells said.