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Utah patients with conditions ranging from cancer pain to epilepsy would be able to take medicine with cannabidiol (CBD) a marijuana extract under a bill endorsed Wednesday by an interim legislative committee.
But the Health and Human Services Interim Committee backed away from the more ambitious medical marijuana plan proposed by Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Saratoga Springs. Madsen said he still plans to propose his legislation to the full Legislature.
The bills are likely to trigger lots of debate in the upcoming session as a host of sick Utahns plead for a medicine they believe will ease their pain. Some medical and law enforcement professionals, meanwhile, will urge caution, as they have in a series of committee meetings since spring.
The committee endorsed a draft bill proposed by Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem, and Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City. It would allow patients with 11 conditions to go to specially trained physicians for "recommendations" that they take medicinal cannabidiol, a marijuana extract that does not have mind-altering properties. The program would begin Jan. 1, 2017.
The conditions are those for which medical research shows the most promise, said Vickers, a pharmacist.
The patients would get cards that would allow them to buy one month's worth of the medicine oils or pills to swallow or dissolve in the mouth at a licensed dispensary.
Madsen's bill would allow patients to also use products with delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is responsible for marijuana users' high. He argued Wednesday that "it's folly to pull out separate parts of the plant and expect to get the benefit."
His bill, he said, "is about helping as many people as we can." Under both bills, the extracts would be in medicinal form, and not intended for smoking.
Daw said he wants Utah to be more cautious and not allow medical cannabis that has mind-altering potential until the benefit is proven. "The potential for abuse is terrifying to me," he said after the meeting. "We're going to get there when the science says we're there."
Daw said his and Vickers' bill has a two-fold mission: treatment and research.
University researchers would apply for a license to research CBD in a clinical setting, according to a draft of the legislation, and doctors would report their patients' experiences to the Utah Department of Health to help with research.
The state's Controlled Substance Advisory Committee would decide each year whether new research warrants adding conditions to the list of approved uses of cannabidiol.
Only high-CBD strains of marijuana would be grown, screened for purity and turned into medicine, which will make the research more valuable, Daw said.
"What we're trying to do in this state is become a mini-FDA," he said, alluding to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
A bill proposed by Rep Brad Daw and Sen. Evan Vickers would allow Utahns to get medicinal cannabidiol for the following conditions beginning Jan. 1, 2017:
Nausea and vomiting during chemotherapy
Appetite stimulaton caused by HIV or AIDS
Pain related to HIV
Muscle spacticity or a movement disorder
Complex regional pain syndrome
Peripheral neuropathy caused by diabetes
Post herpetic neuralgia
Pain related to cancer
Pain occurring after or related to stroke
Phantom limb pain