- Associated Press - Thursday, February 4, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A panel of Utah lawmakers approved a bill that would allow tens of thousands of residents with chronic or debilitating conditions to consume edible pot products but bans smoking pot.

Members of the Senate judiciary and law enforcement committee voted 4-1 in front of a packed room and two overflow spaces need to accommodate those in attendance.

The plan, introduced by Republican Sen. Mark Madsen of Eagle Mountain, was the second marijuana proposal approved Thursday. Both will move to the full Senate, where they are expected to be debated within the next week.

Madsen’s proposal will face a key test when it goes before the full Senate for a vote. That’s where the measure died last year by one vote as his colleagues cited concerns that the proposal was rushed and could have unintended consequences.

Madsen argues Utah should join more than 20 other states that have passed medical marijuana programs and give its citizens the freedom to alleviate their pain.

He chairs the Senate judiciary and law enforcement committee, which approved his similar proposal last year.

Lissa Lander, from Salt Lake City, said during the meeting that ever since she was hit by an SUV at the age of 10, she lives in constant pain. She is now 36 years old and a mother of three children, and said that marijuana relieves all of her pain.

“This ratio does not make me high,” Lander said. “It only makes me feel like a normal person.”

The other marijuana proposal approved by a panel of lawmakers would allow people diagnosed with cancer, HIV and other conditions to use a marijuana-infused oil.

Utah passed a restricted law two years ago allowing those with severe epilepsy to have the extract oil if they obtain it in other states like Colorado.

Rep. Brad Daw of Orem and Sen. Evan Vickers of Cedar City, both Republicans, want to expand that program so people with other painful conditions can use the oil. Their plan would allow the oil to be made in Utah and calls for further research on its potential medical benefits.

The bill was unanimously approved by a Senate health committee.

The oil, called cannabidiol, is made from a strain of the cannabis plant that’s low in THC, the hallucinogenic chemical in marijuana, and high in CBD, a chemical that some believe helps fight seizures.

The plan from Daw and Vickers sets up strict controls on licensing and tracking of those approved to produce and dispense the oil. Doctors recommending the treatment would be registered with the state and undergo training, and their patients would be issued a medical cannabidiol card.

Vickers, a pharmacist, said if the plant is considered a medicine, it should be treated like one and undergo the same strict controls and oversight.

“In a program that is so revolutionary to our state, you can’t afford to make mistakes,” he said.

The Utah Medical Association supports the proposal from Daw and Vickers, but not the one introduced by Madsen.

Some people suffering from chronic pain criticized Daw and Vickers’ plan. They argue their health conditions don’t qualify or that they need treatment from products that include higher levels of THC.

One is Madsen, who said his chronic back pain prompted him to try pot-infused gummy bears in Colorado last year.

Some Republicans have said they worry Madsen’s bill is too broad and there’s not enough science to show marijuana is a safe or effective treatment.


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