Drug Policy Project of Utah in the news:
The cannabis plant is made up of compounds called cannabinoids. The plant’s two most prominent, and most widely discussed, cannabinoids are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Each compound has differing effects on the human body. THC is the primary chemical that produces the psychoactive effect, or the ‘high’, that is associated with the use of cannabis. THC also has a multitude of therapeutic benefits including the ability to increase one’s appetite (helpful in patients with reduced appetite due to chemotherapy or HIV/AIDS treatment), it reduces nausea and vomiting, and it has been shown to act as an anti-inflammatory. On the other hand, CBD has no psychoactive effect, and in fact has been shown to mitigate the impact of THC. It has been sought after for its ability to prevent convulsions, making it effective for treating many different seizures disorders. Studies have also shown that CBD may help a variety of conditions including epilepsy, PTSD and pain management, to name a few. Currently, Utah allows CBD use for children with intractable epilepsy through the Hemp Registry created by House Bill 105 in 2014.
In what came as a surprise to many observers, Sen. Mark Madsen's (R-Saratoga Springs) SB73, which would create a tightly regulated medical cannabis program and allow patients to purchase from a dispensary, passed the Senate last week and is now in the hands of the House. As the broadest and most comprehensive of the three medical cannabis proposals up for discussion in this legislative session, SB73 seemed to have the longest odds, and that is why Drug Policy Project of Utah's Vice President Jessica Reade Gleim, of Park City, said her group is so happy.
"DPPU is pleased to see that the conversation around medical cannabis advancing to the House of Representatives," she said. "We echo the sentiment that many Senators expressed during the final debate on Friday the 26th that this issue has been thoroughly discussed and debated by the Senate and that it is time for the House to have a chance to delve deeper into the issue."
Gleim added that she wanted to take a moment to thank Madsen for proposing the bill and for being willing to amend it when concerns were expressed, most prominently two weeks ago by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"We commend Sen. Madsen for being willing and open to addressing the concerns of various stakeholders through the amendments he added to the bill, prior to its final reading and passage," she said.
On Monday March 7th, 2016 at 7:30am the Utah House of Representatives Health and Human Services Committee will debate and vote on Senate Bills 73 and 89. There has been talk of combining the bills to create a compromise that can pass the Utah House of Representatives before the legislative session ends on Thursday March 10th, 2016.
Today the Drug Policy Project of Utah sent a letter with specific recommendations for how to merge the two proposals. We laid out a very specific vision for how to create a compromise that works for all stakeholders - patients, physicians, law enforcement, and others. Our five recommendations would pave the way for a medical cannabis program that will work, that can be expanded upon later, and that would mark the first step of our journey toward a medical cannabis program that is rooted in our 10 Key Values.
Below are our recommendations, read the original letter here.
Early on in the 2016 session of the Utah Legislature, medical cannabis advocates had good reason for optimism. No fewer than three bills and two resolutions related to the use of marijuana for medicinal reasons were up for discussion. The least of the bills would extend Utah's current program and at least keep the movement from taking a step backward.
Now the session is more than half over and the outlook for broader medical marijuana availability doesn't look nearly as good. A group of advocates called TRUCE announced this week they would give up on pursuing legislation and instead work toward getting an initiative on the November ballot. Erin Brown, a Park City resident and treasurer of the advocacy group Drug Policy Project of Utah, said her organization is not giving up on the Legislature just yet.
"Our state legislators have been and are currently engaged in a robust conversation about medical cannabis and have spent a significant amount of time becoming informed on this issue," she said. "The fact that there are five bills being considered by the Legislature this session is evidence that they are working hard on the issue of medical cannabis in this state."
Brown said the situation at the Capitol is not all gloom and doom. House Concurrent Resolution 3, brought by Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem, tackles one of the most pressing issues facing the medical cannabis movement.
"The federal prohibition on cannabis-related research," she said. "This resolution urges the federal government to take steps in creating increased opportunities for researchers to engage in scientific inquiry into the medical efficacy of cannabis.
The Drug Policy Project of Utah is an IRS recognized 501c3 nonprofit dedicated to providing research and public policy analysis on issues related to drug policy, including medical cannabis.
We know that misinformation exists on all sides of the issue and we are dedicated to providing research of the highest caliber to ensure that everyone has access to correct information.
That is why earlier this month we launched the Utah Medical Cannabis Research Center. Here you will find research about medical cannabis and other drug policies.
We are one of many organizations dedicated to creating a medical cannabis program in Utah but we are the only organization that is focused on reforming all drug laws, from the federal level, to the local level, and we need your support.
When Park City's Jessica Reade Gleim began researching alternative treatments for her Trigeminal Neuralgia, a chronic nerve pain condition, she came to believe medicinal marijuana would make a difference not only for her but for others suffering in Utah, as well. So last year, she joined the board of trustees of the Drug Policy Project of Utah (DPPU).
"[They] had just completed a poll that showed 72 percent of Utahns supported medical cannabis," she said. "There was a lot of energy around the issue but not a lot of accurate dialogue going on."
In August of 2015, she was named vice president. Over the past year, Gleim said one of the goals of the DPPU has been to make progress at the legislative level. Just in the last year Gleim said things appear to be moving forward.
"The conversation has evolved to a large degree," she said. "There is more information in the public arena and on Capitol Hill. We've hosted public events, worked with the media, and been engaging with legislators about the topic over the past year and we feel it has helped advance the conversation."
Gleim said the legalization of medicinal marijuana in other states has made the DPPU's job easier in that they no longer have to ask Utah leaders to be trailblazers.
In a Feb. 4 story published by the Standard Examiner, Weber and Morgan County health officials and law enforcement personnel voiced their opposition to the two medical cannabis bills currently being considered by state legislators.
- RELATED: “Weber officials oppose two bills that could legalize medical marijuana”
Their key points of opposition are centered around the fear that either bill could lead to increased adolescent usage, as well as creating a state-level atmosphere that fosters support for the full legalization of cannabis in Utah.
These are not uncommon reservations, and ensuring that these topics are fully and accurately discussed is important.
Sheriff Terry Thompson mentions that in states that have legal cannabis programs, data suggests use among teens is increasing. Yet according to data recently released by the Colorado Department of Health and Environment, cannabis use among high school students actually decreased from 22 percent in 2011 to 20 percent in 2013. The data was collected prior to the state moving to a recreational cannabis program, but nonetheless it still demonstrates that approval of a statewide recreational system after a long, well-publicized public debate did not send the message that it was permissible for teens to use cannabis.