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Medical Marijuana Proposals Advance to Utah Senate

Andrea Smardon
Senator Mark Madsen (R-13) listens while Dallas Sainsbury testifies about her experience with medical marijuana at the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Committee hearing. (February 4, 2016)

Two competing medical marijuana bills were approved by legislative panels Thursday after some emotional testimony.

Numerous Utah doctors testified before lawmakers that access to the whole marijuana plant would benefit patients dealing with conditions like chronic pain, gastrointestinal issues, and neurological diseases. Dallas Sainsbury said she tried marijuana in Colorado to help relieve the painful effects of Chrohn’s disease.

“I desperately hope that myself and others have access to this because I don’t want to see myself or anyone else have to deal with opiate addiction,” Sainsbury said.  

SB73 sponsored by Republican Senator Mark Madsen was strongly opposed by conservative groups like the Sutherland Institute and the Utah Eagle Forum, concerned that marijuana could serve as a gateway to other more harmful drug use.

Many of those who generally oppose medical marijuana testified at an earlier committee hearing that they would support SB89. It’s a more limited proposal, which allows for the use of cannibidiol or CBD oil only. Dr. Perry Fine, past President of the American Academy of Pain Medicine, says this approach mitigates potential harms from other compounds in the plant like THC that may be intoxicating.

“This is a highly rational and responsible approach, and it serves the stated objective that suffering demands compassion, science demands objectively applied rigor, but good medicine demands both,” Fine says.

But for some who testified, SB89 does nothing to ease their suffering, like Lissa Lander, who has complex regional pain syndrome. She says CBD oil alone does not help her.

“I’m afraid that senators will vote for this bill because it’s safe, instead of voting for SB73 which does allow whole plant access to patients like me,” Lander says.  

Both bills passed out of committee and are headed to the full Senate for consideration.

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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