Utah lawmakers debate merits of marijuana extract that helps kids with seizures

Posted at 10:12 PM, Nov 20, 2013

SALT LAKE CITY -- Several Utah parents say a marijuana extract is dramatically reducing seizures for kids with rare forms of epilepsy, and they want access to the extract in Utah.

They, along with Representative Gage Froerer, who is sponsoring a cannabis bill, took their cause to Utah lawmakers for the first time as supporters pleaded their case before health and law enforcement interim committees.

When conservative Senator Allen Christiansen heard there was a push to bring a marijuana extract to Utah, he said, “Representative, I was all geared up to start fighting you on this medical marijuana thing like crazy.”

Then, Christiansen did a 180 in front of the Health and Human Services interim committee.

"I'm looking it up last night, and this is the end all cure-all of everything…  If you can get past these hurdles and get it through the House, I will be happy to carry it in the Senate,” he said.

"It's progress, we're educating our lawmakers," said mother April Sintz.

The Epilepsy Association of Utah said the elixir could help about 10,000 children suffering in Utah.

April Sintz believes the cannabidiol oil known as “Charlotte's Web” can not only end her son's violent seizures, but free him from legal, ever-changing prescriptions that have terrible side effects.

"I absolutely think it's a lifesaver, but I think it's also a chance to change the quality of life that our children are living right now," Sintz said.

A number of doctors said the extract has very low THC levels.

"There's absolutely no potential for abuse, nor does there seem to be any potential for any kind of side effects," said Dr. Mark Rosenfeld, CEO of ISA Scientific in Draper.

Representative Froerer wants to import the extract from Colorado and have the Utah Health Department administer it as an herbal supplement, not a pharmaceutical drug.

But the legislative's legal counsel said under federal law, marijuana is illegal.

"I don't think we could ask a state department to do something with an illegal substance like that," said Representative Paul Ray from Clearfield. "I think when you look on the legal side, you'll probably get some more questions this afternoon from law enforcement. How do you manage a program being that it's still illegal on the federal side?”

Froerer plans on drafting a bill by December.