ST. GEORGE – The question of whether medical cannabis should be legalized in Utah is one that a local advocacy group wants to put on the 2018 ballot. In order to do that, however, they have to gather over 130,000 signatures from across the state.
Southern Utah residents who support the idea of medical cannabis legalization have the opportunity to sign the petition Saturday at the Hyatt Place hotel, 1819 S. 20 East, in St. George, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
With the exception of a cannabis oil extract used to treat epilepsy – which has to be obtained in states where it is legal to sell – the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes remains illegal in Utah.
As cannabis-derived oils have been found to help decrease the occurrence of seizures, advocates also claim medical cannabis can be used to help treat a plethora of maladies.
Medical conditions that would qualify for medical cannabis use via a physician’s subscription under the proposed bill include HIV, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, epilepsy, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis and autism, among other ailments.
Organizers with the Utah Patients’ Coalition, the group behind the ballot initiative, have stressed that they do not support the legalization of recreational marijuana.
Part of the bill the group is proposing maintains prohibitions on the public use of cannabis, driving under the influence of cannabis and smoking cannabis.
The ballot initiative is also a response to the belief the Utah Legislature has dragged its feet when it comes to trying to pass meaningful medical marijuana policy. For years lawmakers have tried to pass some form of medical marijuana legalization and have come up short.
“We feel strongly here as patients and advocates that the time has come to help alleviate the pain and suffering of the most vulnerable in our society,” said DJ Schanz of the Utah Patients Coalition during the June 26 launch of the ballot initiative effort. “It’s time to start the process of legalizing medical cannabis.”
Among those who have benefited from medical cannabis use is 10-year-old Holden Cromar, son of David and Mandi Cromar, of St. George.
Holden has a rare form of epilepsy that can produce severe seizures, the boy’s father previously told St. George News during an August interview.
The Cromars attempted to treat the epilepsy with various medications and also faced the option of brain surgery at one point. Yet before taking that route, they chose to try out the CBD cannabis-extract oil made legal by the Utah Legislature in 2014.
The cannabis oil helped greatly reduce Holden’s seizures. As a result, the family ultimately moved to Colorado, where marijuana is legal for both recreational and medical use, so they could to gain greater access to the product that helped their son, David Cromar said.
“Right away, we noticed a difference, almost like a fog had been lifted from his brain,” David Cromar said of the cannabis oil’s affect on Holden.
The family recently moved back to Utah and are big supporters of the medical cannabis ballot initiative spearheaded by the Utah Patient’ Coalition. The Cromars organized a previous ballot initiative signing event in early September. They also organized Saturday’s event.
“We already know (medical cannabis) works,” David Cromar said. “We just need access.”
The Cromars’ story is featured in the media player at the top of this article.
Advocates have also said medical cannabis can help calm patients experiencing post-traumatic stress. They also claim it is a viable alternative to opioid-based medications.
The initiative has not come without opposition, as opponents state the claims made by medical cannabis advocates are anecdotal and lack sufficient scientific research to prove there’s any real medical benefit.
Advocates counter that enough research has been done already, but opponents choose not to recognize it as it does not have the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s stamp of approval.
Widespread research has been stymied due to marijuana being classified as a Schedule I drug. Research has to be approved by federal agencies through a process that isn’t exactly known for being quick.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, introduced legislation in mid-September that would expedite the federal approval process so more research could be done on marijuana’s touted medical qualities.
Despite federal law, medical marijuana is currently legal in 29 states and Washington, D.C.
- What: Medical cannabis 2018 ballot initiative signing event.
- When: Saturday, Nov. 18, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
- Where: Hyatt Place hotel, 1819 S. 120 East, St. George.
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