- Associated Press - Thursday, March 6, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A Senate committee Thursday unanimously approved a bill allowing Utah parents of children with severe epilepsy to legally obtain a marijuana-derived extract they say helps with seizures.

After receiving a 4-0 vote from the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, the legislation now moves to the full Senate for consideration. Approval there would clear the way for the bill to reach Gov. Gary Herbert’s desk.

The measure, sponsored by Huntsville Republican Rep. Gage Froerer, deals specifically with a cannabis-extract oil, which is believed by many to help children with a rare form of epilepsy known as Dravet syndrome.

The oil is grown in neighboring Colorado, but state and federal law do not allow it to be brought into Utah.

Froerer’s bill would allow the oil to be brought back to Utah from Colorado with a neurologist’s consent.

“Basically, it would allow it up to them to seek out this product wherever it may be,” Froerer said. “There’s no distribution in the state of Utah.”

The bill is restricted to those with severe epilepsy for whom the regular treatments are not effective.

“We’re not talking about the 70 percent of people that are responding to medications,” Annette Maughan, president of the Epilepsy Association of Utah, told lawmakers Thursday.

Maughan said her 11-year-old son has the disease, which “causes a great deal of deterioration, both mentally and physically.”

“We didn’t think he was going to make it to 11,” she said.

Other products similarly derived from hemp, such as lotions and drinks, can be purchased in Utah, but those are generally products from Canada, she said.

But because of conflicting federal laws dealing with international trade and controlled substances, Maughan said similar products such as the cannabis extract they’re seeking are not allowed to be imported from nearby Colorado.

Doctors and others have warned that there’s no proof yet that the extract is effective at treating epilepsy or even safe.

In Colorado, the state health department’s chief medical officer has warned there’s no peer-reviewed, published research to support the claims.

The American Epilepsy Society has cautioned that reports of the extract helping to treat epilepsy are only anecdotal and encourages people to consult a specialist.

Story Continues →