SB 259 Medical Cannabis Amendment Passes First Hurdle in Utah Legislature

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SALT LAKE CITY—SB 0259, The Medical Cannabis Amendment, was heard this morning in the Utah State Senate Judiciary Committee and passed with a vote of 3-2. Some senators were unable to vote when the bill hearing ran over time, lasting a total of two hours.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Mark Madsen (R-Saratoga Springs), has publicly discussed his use of medical cannabis in a recent trip to Colorado to treat his chronic back pain. Madsen’s bill brought out so many supporters this morning an additional room was opened to accommodate the crowd. Full audio of the hearing is available here: http://utahlegislature.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=18619&meta_id=544247

Included in Sen. Madsen’s testimony were interested patients, representatives of law enforcement and a physician. Two mothers who openly admitted to using cannabis to treat their debilitating conditions opened the testimony.

Tenille Farr, of Spanish Fork, was 18 weeks pregnant with her fifth son when she was diagnosed with stage-2 Hodgkyin’s Lymphoma. After fasting, significant prayer and a desire to obey the law, Farr made the difficult decision to leave her family to seek treatment in Colorado and California. The cancer stopped growing and she delivered a healthy baby boy, Gabe, who was with her at the hearing.  Farr has stopped using cannabis since returning to the state and her cancer has again started spreading.

“I would love to have the freedom to choose cannabis over chemo. Senator Madsen’s bill allows us that freedom and many others the freedom to heal as they choose,” Farr said. “I hope that you would all support that bill and allow us to be mothers, to be the things we desire to be and to heal the way we desire to heal.”

“I am willing to speak about this issue and put my freedom on the line because I don’t believe anyone should have to suffer like I did from bad policy,” said Christine Stenquist, of Kaysville, a patient with a benign brain tumor and fibromyalgia who was bedridden for nearly two decades before trying cannabis.

Stenquist says she used medical cannabis after cycling through over 30 different pharmaceutical prescription drugs over two decades. Today she no longer needs the assistance of a cane or a walker and she volunteers full time for a local non-profit.

Following the testimonies of Farr and Stenquist, the committee heard from a handful of Utah families fighting for the right to use medical cannabis. Dr. Michael Wilson of Cedar City, spoke on behalf of his daughter Raquel. Raquel is 16-years-old and diagnosed with a rare and difficult-to-treat form of cancer, Glioblastoma Multiforme. Forrest Shaw, of Salt Lake City, has terminal prostate cancer and has suffered through ineffective hormone treatments. Shaw admitted to trying cannabis and said he wants the right to use legally.

Powerful testimony was heard by Aaron Campbell, of Orem. Campbell’s three daughters were all diagnosed with a rare terminal neurological illness, Metachromatic Leukodystrophy. All three had bone marrow transplant, but their eldest daughter’s case was too advanced and she died six months ago at the age of 17. Campbell’s younger daughter was present for the hearing.

Also testifying in support of the bill was Dave Doddrage, a former Los Angeles narcotics officer and Utah resident. Doddrage spoke alongside Missouri policeman Larry Kirk as representatives of the national group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

Sen. Madsen chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, but ceded control to Sen. Gene Davis (D-Salt Lake) to avoid a conflict of interest.  Senators Luz Escamilla (D-Salt Lake) and Lyle Hillyard (R-Logan) were not present and thus did not vote.

The Utah State Senate is expected to vote on the bill Monday, March 2.

 

Please direct all media inquiries to Drug Policy Project of Utah: (385) 282-8172 or media@dpputah.org