On the EDge: Utah takes timid step forward in medpot legalization

OPINION – Although the proposal is extremely limited in scope, the Utah Legislature is turning a number of heads by becoming the latest state to consider legalization of a form of medicinal marijuana.

The Legislature, led by Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville, is exploring the possibility of allowing the use of a cannabis oil – a liquid, purified form of cannabidiol, or CBD, a nonpsychoactive component of marijuana – to treat children with a rare form of epilepsy called Dravet syndrome.

Froerer is working with a group called Hope 4 Children With Epilepsy, which was founded by four Mormon moms.

If there’s anyone who can do it, it’s conservative Mormon moms from Utah,” the organization’s cofounder, Jennifer May, told a reporter from The Huffington Post.

As a longtime supporter of the legalization of marijuana, I am pleased to see some progressive thought on this matter, although I wonder if the idea would have gained traction if it was put forward by liberal Jewish dads.

The prohibition of marijuana has always been steeped in cultural, ethnic, and economic reasoning rather than hard science; it dates back to the beef between megalomaniac newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst and Pancho Villa, whose army had seized a 1 million-acre timber farm that belonged to the Hearst family in Mexico.

Hearst, who made no effort to disguise his racism against Mexicans and African-Americans, was at the heart of the “Reefer Madness” attitude toward marijuana that has permeated this country ever since.

There is plenty of hard scientific evidence today that proves marijuana has definite medicinal qualities to help those suffering from a number of major illnesses from chronic pain to cancer.

Researchers have developed a synthesized version of marijuana that is available in the state of Utah for cancer and AIDS patients called marinol. The problem, of course, is that it only comes in heavy doses and is quite expensive. I had a friend who was given marinol while undergoing chemotherapy and reported that it worked, but that the dosage was such that in addition to easing the nausea and loss of appetite, marinol also created a massive “high” that left her unable to function normally.

The argument for the use of the natural herb as opposed to the synthesized drug is that the patient can control the dosage for maximum effect without the side effects. Still, marinol is listed as a Schedule III controlled substance, a drug with a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence. Marijuana, meanwhile, is listed as a Schedule I controlled substance, along with heroin by the way, and categorized among the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence, which we know is simply not true.

Why a synthesized version of marijuana, with the same effects and properties, would be classified differently is a mystery.

And, as we are learning, the abuse of prescription drugs is a growing problem nationwide. While it is fact that more people are using marijuana illicitly, nobody has ever died from a marijuana overdose. The same cannot be said about Lortab, Demerol, Vicodin, or other prescription meds, which is another reason why the prohibition of marijuana as a medicinal or recreational substance, is ludicrous.

I was very surprised when I learned that the Utah Legislature was actually going to look at this extremely limited use of medicinal marijuana. The cultural aspects of life in Utah, I believed, would make it one of the last states to investigate, let alone consider, such law.

I mean, there are 20 states, plus the District of Columbia, where you can legally use medpot for a variety of maladies. There are two – Colorado and Washington – that have legalized it for recreational use as well.

According to the latest Gallup Poll, 58 percent of all Americans favor legalization of the herb, giving it its highest approval rate ever. We’ve only elected six presidents with higher numbers.

There will be, undoubtedly, a lifting of this prohibition at some point, even if it is only from the economical standpoint of regulating and taxing the herb and putting it to other uses, such as hemp paper, clothing, fuel, and the like in a renewable crop that is inexpensive and easy to grow.

But, it all has to start somewhere and even though the scope of the proposed Utah bill is extremely narrow, allowing the use of only one derivative drug with one small purpose, it is a start and, hopefully, will help those children.

Then, perhaps, the slow process of cultural change can kick in and Utahns will see the benefits of the herb and put political and societal prejudices aside.

No bad days!

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Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews, @EdKociela

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

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  • kaitlyn November 26, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    I wasn’t even smoking it and I got a $1500 fine and lost my license for a year with a misdemeanor on my record and is hard to get a job now. Utah has too many negative thoughts on marijuana and there is proof out there it can save Lifes and no one has ever died from it. I do believe it should be used for a positive purpose but I shouldn’t be punished this way for not even being the one smoking it.

  • Maggie November 26, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    I am good as long as it has a history of curing/helping and is prescribed by MD’s and distributed by Pharmacy’s. I am not ok with any drug used for recreational use. We do NOT need any more legal potheads walking around killing their last remaining brain cells and expecting the rest of us to be responsible for the nonsense that you espouse and act out.

  • Bradeon November 26, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    Smoking pot doesn’t kill braincells.

    I smoke and work 50 hours a week. Talking about peoples ‘reefer madness’ mentality.

  • lance November 26, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    this pot prohibition has to end. we spend billions on law enforcment and inmates for weed alone . its sad that so many people think that legalizing would hurt our society but they will gladly go fill a prescrition for opiates muscle relaxers anti anxiety sleep aids anti depression meds ect.. those things are physically addicting . anti anxiety widrawals can be fatal!!! marijuana can help with all of those things without side affect and without physical dependance. please do your research before you make a decision about something! it should be legal people can use it responsibly, i believe it would be a postive thing for our society.

  • Laura Warburton November 26, 2013 at 7:30 pm

    I’m working on this legislation.

    The Stanley brothers from Realm of Caring created the hybrid hemp plant called Charlotte’s Web which is used exclusively for this particular product, Alepsia. I realize how confusing this topic is. Even the federal government in their schedule one description names marijuana as the genus. So, let me help clarify. The genus is cannabis. Cannabis has a son called marijuana and a daughter called hemp. Charlotte’s Web is the daughter of hemp. That’s the easiest way to explain it. Hemp is already imported from several counties and allowed by law due to a 2004 9th Circuit Court of Appeals case. However, because this is grown in Colorado, interstate commerce laws won’t allow it to be transported across state lines. Yet…I have hemp rice cakes that I bought from a local store in Utah on my counter imported from California. It’s crazy. Back to the facts. Hemp is hemp because of it’s low THC (what causes the high) .3% or less. It cannot get you high. Most of the product is grown in Canada. They have strict hemp laws. Don’t ask me about California’s laws. Alepsia has far below the .3% requirement.

    So, what’s all the fuss, right? It’s a plant. It’s a herb. FDA doesn’t regulate herbs. Technically, the high (no pun intended) quality of the product constitutes it being called a nutraceutical. It’s not medicine. Not technically. Although it heals.-

    It is amazing. The results of it’s use is phenomenal. It’s not just for epileptic seizures. It aids in many neurological issues. It’s not a cure-all regardless of what you’ve read. However, it’s helped many in ways that simply hasn’t happened with any other well tested, FDA approved, extremely expensive drug so far. As a matter of fact, all the well tested owned drugs are killing children via organ failure. Not all and not always but enough to make the hair stand up on my neck and it should on yours too.

    So, what can you do to help? Well, you’ve got a wonderful Senator in your area that is the Senate Sponsor for the bill – Senator Urquhart. Email him and all your reps and tell them, politely, that you’re grateful for their support. Find their emails at http://www.le.utah.gov.

  • Annette Maughan November 26, 2013 at 9:57 pm

    Thank you for your article. I am Annette Maughan, President of the Epilepsy Association of Utah and one of the ‘Mormon Mom’s’. My son began seizing at the age of 3 and is now 11. In that time, he has had more than 12,000 seizures. Every seizure is the enemy. We hate seizures! I must point out that even though 20 states do have MMJ laws, NONE of them allow for pediatric use and it will, most likely, always remain the same. Luckily for us, this is NOT MJ, it IS Hemp. It meets all of the requirements for the Feds to see it as hemp with one exception: It was grown in Colorado. And what a ridiculous reason to prevent children who are so close to death: it’s not from Canada. As Laura said, the high-CBD, low-THC plant is very effective for many disorders, but with epilepsy is it easily quantifiable: from 300 to 1. Little Charlotte Figi went from 300 seizures a week to 1. After her first dose. There are over 50 years of studies about CBD as an anti-epileptic. For the first time since my son was 3, I have a hope that something can bring him back to me. I miss him every day and if a cannabis plant can do that…then we need it. Again, thank you!

  • zacii November 27, 2013 at 6:04 am

    It ought to be legalized. Treat it like alcohol, users must be 21 and not driving.

    More than half of society uses it anyway, didn’t we get a clue from the failure of prohibition in the early 20th century?

  • Tricia February 11, 2014 at 1:37 pm

    I have nothing against medical uses of marijuana with a prescription, I am not fond of legalizing it into the public since people have severe allergies to this plant, I myself am Highly allergic to all properties, if not treated immediately my airways will shut down and I could die. I am desperately afraid with this type of legalization I will no longer be able to enjoy my surroundings. I have on numerous occasions been rushed to ER for some idiot who rolled down their window and the smoke bellowed into my car, It could have caused an accident if I did not have room to pull over.
    We try to get people to quit smoking, and now people want to smoke something else that is harmful not just for them but others.

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