On the EDge: Medicinal cannabis moves a step closer to legalization in Utah … yes, Utah

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OPINION – There was a time when people barely whispered the word.


Well, even the Utah Legislature is talking out loud about marijuana.

So are a lot of other people, and in a positive way.

This week, the Utah Senate will take action on a bill entitled Medical Cannabis Amendments, SB 259, written by Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Saratoga Springs, that would legalize medicinal marijuana use in edible forms and production in Utah for those suffering from AIDS; Alzheimer’s disease; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; an autoimmune disorder; cachexia or physical wasting, nausea, and malnutrition associated with chronic disease; cancer; Crohn’s disease; epilepsy, or a condition that causes debilitating seizures; glaucoma; multiple sclerosis or a similar condition that causes persistent and debilitating muscle spasms; post-traumatic stress disorder; or
severe, chronic pain.

Madsen’s bill is a compassionate, and incredibly wise, measure that, I am surprised, has moved this far in the Senate.

As he points out, Utah has experienced many deaths from prescription drug overdoses. This bill would severely reduce that. The opioids used for pain management are physically addictive, with high-risk potential for overdose and death.

Nobody has ever overdosed from cannabis.


Still, science seems lost on many, including Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden.

“I can’t really believe were even discussing this in Utah,” he said. “If we try to help the few, we will curse the many. Children will use their parents’ medicine.”

Sen. Christensen, that is a hollow argument. Children already are using their parents’ medicine, and it is hooking them like street junkies and costing lives.

Gov. Gary Herbert has also weighed in on the subject saying that it would lead to recreational use in Utah.

Herbert is another myopic elected official. There is already recreational use going on and it will neither increase nor decrease as a result of a bill that would provide this medicine to those who need it.

I have been in a Colorado pot shop. I have seen how tightly restricted access to the medicinal cannabis section is. The people who own and run these businesses take the laws governing their shops seriously. You don’t have some stoner sitting behind the counter with Pink Floyd screaming out of the speakers. Instead, you have knowledgeable people handling the product to the letter of the law. These folks know that there is too much on the line, too much at risk, if they don’t follow the strict rules set up by Colorado’s elected officials.

The key thing here is that this law would allow a patient to have a hand in deciding their own care.

As somebody with a nasty autoimmune disorder that creates chronic pain, I have had my share of Lortab, Demerol, Tylenol/codeine over the years. Even at the lowest doses, it can be disorienting, let alone the amounts needed to ease the agony of pain flare-ups that can last several months at a time, subside to a lower, but still painful level, then reemerge even stronger.

I know that a patient can easily develop a level of tolerance that requires higher or more frequent doses to quell the pain.

And, just because the pain meds are prescribed by a doctor does not mean they are safe and can’t be abused by those looking to get high. Those who suffer, I can guarantee you, are not looking for that buzz. All they want is to eliminate pain.

With medicinal cannabis, the patient can control their intake per need.

To be completely honest, when states started legalizing cannabis for medicinal purposes, I, too, was skeptical of the claims.

But, we have seen a lot of studies come forward since that prove its efficacy.

These aren’t just a bunch of old hippies looking to get high.

I don’t know exactly how it works or why it works, but the clinical evidence is there, proving that it does work. We just need to make it available to those in need.

Remember, the question on the table is not full legalization for recreational use. That’s another subject for another time.

This is about acknowledging the herb as a credible, effective tool in pain management.

And, that is key.

In today’s world, because of the dangers of the opioids being prescribed, doctors are, rightfully, frightened to continue writing prescriptions for the powerful narcotics they know have the capability to addict or even kill the patient sitting across from them.

But, they have no other options, no other means to alleviate suffering and pain.

Approval of this bill would give them an alternative and offer hope to those patients who have none.

The long-standing negativity about cannabis has its origins as a personal crusade that former newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst had against Mexican nationals whose production of hemp threatened his logging businesses, and not in science.

Twenty-three other states have disposed of that notion and done the right thing.

a to do the same.

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

Ed. note:  From Southern Utah, Sens. Ralph Okerlund, David Hinkins and Steve Urquhart voted for the the substitute bill on second reading; and Sen. Evan Vickers voted against it. The substitute bill passed the senate 16-13 Tuesday night.


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Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews, @EdKociela

Copyright St. George News, StGeorgeUtah.com Inc., 2015, all rights reserved.





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  • Usedyourname March 4, 2015 at 5:07 pm

    ” I have been in a Colorado Pot shop”

    There’s a shocker for ya.

  • fun bag March 4, 2015 at 6:01 pm

    doctors would rather push opiate pain killers. For some reason they like to create more addicts.

  • laughingmonkey March 4, 2015 at 7:15 pm

    Amen to that! I am so sick of seeing my friends, family, co-workers, and acquaintances become harmfully addicted to pain/ anxiety medications. These addictions always lead to worse things the effect those around us. If medical marijuana was approved in this state I believe we would most likely see a significant drop in overdoses, addicts, and people incarcerated because of that. I hope that Utahn’s can open their minds.

  • ladybugavenger March 4, 2015 at 8:18 pm

    YaY! One step at a time. Alcohol and prescription meds are more harmful than marijuana

  • Free Parking March 4, 2015 at 11:22 pm

    YEAH BABY LETS BREAK OUT THE BONG….. LOL are they going to lower the buzz factor in Utah pot like Utah beer LOL.!

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