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Utah Lawmakers Consider Two Medical Marijuana Bills


As one Utah lawmaker continues his push for the state to allow medical marijuana, two of his GOP colleagues have introduced a scaled-back alternative.

Republican Senator Mark Madsen of Eagle Mountain wants to allow those with certain chronic or debilitating conditions to use marijuana products. His first proposal failed to pass the legislature, but he’s trying again with a similar bill this year. Meanwhile, a new proposal from Representative Brad Daw and Senator Evan Vickers would take a more restrictive approach. Daw says they’re starting with a principle familiar to doctors – first do no harm.

“Let’s start with what we know is reasonably safe and what we also know is reasonably effective, and that is cannibidiol,” Daw says.

This plan would expand a limited program Utah passed in 2014, which allowed those with severe epilepsy to use cannabis extract oil obtained from other states. This new proposal would allow the oil to be made here in Utah. Daw and Vickers estimate 2,000 to 5,000 Utahns would be able to use the oil, though they didn’t detail which conditions would be covered. Senator Madsen said his plan would likely cover more conditions including chronic pain, cancer, and PTSD. He estimates that his plan would allow 100,000 people to obtain medical marijuana.

“I think this other proposal is almost a political placebo,” Madsen says. “The major purpose of this I think is to make my bill not pass. Everybody is aware that the populace gets this. The people support it, so now people are looking for political cover. This is the new territory that the prohibitionists have staked out.”

The Health and Human Services Interim Committee discussed both proposals but did not take action on either plan. Madsen is not running for re-election next year, making the 2016 session his final chance to push through his proposal. He has sampled marijuana in Colorado to treat his chronic back pain, and has said it’s a better alternative for him than opioid pain killers. He told reporters that if Utah doesn't pass a marijuana program, he would move to one of the 23 states that allow it.

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World. Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Prior to that, she worked at Seattleââ
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