This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Utah exceptionalism, like American exceptionalism, is a good thing to have when it is employed in the service of the weak, the sick, the desperate.
Too often, the impulse felt by Utah politicians to thumb their noses at federal law, federal officials, even the Constitution of the United States, surfaces only to be used on behalf of the rich, the retrograde, the exploiters of public lands.
But, in consciously and boldly stepping away from the federal government's irrational and heartless refusal to even consider the possibility that some forms or derivatives of the marijuana plant might have medicinal value, members of the Utah Legislature have gone a long way toward making the case that, sometimes, they do know better.
Or, at least, care more.
Both houses of the Legislature have passed, and there is hope that Gov. Gary Herbert will sign, HB105. That's a measure that would allow limited use of a specified form of cannabis oil, as distinct from the chemicals that have an intoxicating effect, to ease the often uncontrollable seizures that accompany some forms of epilepsy.
No one is claiming that cannabis oil cures anything. It does, though, show promise in reducing or eliminating the debilitating seizures suffered by those who suffer from such horrible maladies, often from the earliest of ages.
There are also no guarantees that use of the chemical will be helpful for everyone who suffers from seizures, or that it will not have any negative side effects. That degree of ignorance exists, in large measure, because the federal government has, for decades, been unwilling to finance or even permit many real scientific trials for any medicinal substance that is derived from marijuana.
Some bipartisan, multi-generational terror of even appearing to concede that there might be a single good thing to be derived from Cheech and Chong's favorite flower has prevented such research. And that has left epilepsy victims at the mercy of the medical-industrial complex, which protects its own monopoly on treatments that are often ineffective, sometimes carry horrid side effects and are almost always ruinously expensive.
The families who will use cannabis oil for their sick children are already at the end of their emotional and financial tethers. There is nothing recreational or dissolute about this plan. Nobody is looking for a good time. Just a hope for a decent life, for themselves and their children.
And the Utah Legislature is to be heartily commended for giving them that, however slim, chance.