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Lawmakers Present Medical Marijuana Drafts For 2017

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Utah lawmakers heard more arguments both in favor and against medical marijuana on Wednesday, and among those in favor of legalization, there is an increasing sense of urgency.

Four bills are being drafted to deal with medical marijuana during the next legislative session. One would primarily cover research, another would tackle regulation, and two different bills would lay the framework for a doctor’s ability to prescribe the drug.

Republican Senator Brian Shiazowa is not sponsoring any of the bills, but he’s been a vocal advocate of legalizing marijuana for medical use and conducting more research.

“Our patients out there are desperate,” he told the Health and Human Service Interim Committee. “They’re desperate for something to be done. They’re desperate to have an alternative to anticonvulsants, they’re desperate to have an alternative to opioids in terms of pain relief.”

Some lawmakers, including Republican Representative Kay McIff, voiced concern about rushing to legalize medical cannabis without more research. Shiazowa said he doesn’t think it could be any worse than the prescription drug overdoses he sees as an ER doctor.

“Are you satisfied,” McIff asked, “that the level of desperation which you describe will not lead us into a venture where the cure could be worse that the disease to start with?”

Shiazowa sighed as he replied, “I have to treat patients every Saturday night with drug overdoses. And I heard one of the researchers say here, ‘don’t let the genie out of the bottle.’ The genie is out of the bottle.”

The Utah Medical Association came out against any legalization of medical marijuana until it is FDA approved. Advocates and some lawmakers say that would take too long.

The Health and Human Services Interim Committee will review the legislation drafts again next month.

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