Doctors urge caution when it comes to medical marijuana laws in Utah

Posted at 10:15 PM, Jan 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-22 00:15:59-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- Lawmakers will consider a number of bills to legalize medical marijuana in Utah during the 2017 legislative session, but one group of physicians and experts says, "not so fast."

Ahead of next week's legislative session, the Utah Medical Association has come out against the term "medical marijuana," calling it deceptive.

“The marijuana plant is not medical marijuana for the following reasons: It has not been run through a drug or medicine approval process and approved by a recognized organization like the FDA, Federal Drug Administration, for either prescription or over the counter drugs,” said Dr. William Hamilton of Intermountain Medical Center.

The group says the whole plant has never been approved for any medical use, and more research is needed before it can be referred to as beneficial.

“It has not been scientifically proven to be efficacious in treating a particular diagnosis or illness,” Hamilton said. “It is still in the testing/research phase for most diagnoses.”

The announcement comes just days before the state legislative session gets under way, and there are several bills in the works that would legalize cannabis for medical use in some form.

“Neither the legislature nor the public should determine what is medicine,” Hamilton said. “There’s a valid scientific process for this.”

Last year, two bills were introduced in the Utah Senate proposing access to marijuana for people with certain medical conditions. Both measures failed before the end of the session.

Advocates for medical cannabis have told Fox 13 they don't think lawmakers will do enough this year, and they are threatening to pursue a ballot initiative to take the issue directly to Utah voters.

But doctors like Hamilton and Mark Bair of the Utah Medical Association warn against bypassing more research and science.

“Cannabis is not a cure,” Bair said. “Understand that cannabis in any form and any claim, at best, has been talked about as helping with symptoms.”