Utah lawmakers clash on cannabis legislation, bill moves out of committee

Posted at 8:40 PM, Feb 21, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-21 23:37:45-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- Parents of children with epilepsy celebrated a victory Friday.

They believe cannabis oil can reduce their children's seizures, and now a bill that would give them access to the oil has moved out of committee.

There were parents literally in tears as the law enforcement committee voted 8-2 to send a hemp extract bill to the Utah house floor for a vote.

However, the move forward didn’t come without opposition. The Utah Medical Association told the committee it’s a bad idea.

"There are not enough clinical trials or scientific evidence to run a bill allowing the use in Utah," Michelle McOmber said.

Representative Gage Froerer, R-District 8, is sponsoring the bill that would allow parents to bring cannabidiol oil from states like Colorado to Utah without fear of prosecution as long as they had their doctor’s permission and the child is being monitored.

Some lawmakers believe the appropriate access should come through an FDA-approved program.

"From my perspective, if you're gonna pass this kind a bill in the legislature you're basically taking the role out of the FDA and the institutional review boards that do research on people," said Rep. Edward Redd, R-District 9.

Annete Maughan is the President of the Epilepsy Association of Utah, and she weighed in on the issue.

"We want FDA approval as well,” she said.

But FDA programs haven’t been approved in Utah, and they could take months to begin. Even then, those programs take a limited number of kids.

"We already know that a study could take anywhere from 4 to 12 years,” Froerer said. “These kids don't have 4 to 12 years. We need to give them the opportunity now.”

“We're talking about a population that has a life expectancy of less than that," Maughan added.