Salt Lake City, Utah October 22, 2015: Following today’s Interim Session of the Utah State Legislature, the Drug Policy Project of Utah – the organization representing the interests of the patients who would benefit from medical cannabis – announced its serious concerns about the draft legislation released by Senator Evan Vickers at the meeting of the Health and Human Services Interim Committee.
“We are incredibly concerned about the lack of input from patients that Senator Vickers has sought. This proposal would serve merely to expand the existing CBD-only system that is leaving patients such as myself without safe, regulated access to whole plant medical cannabis” said Executive Director Christine Stenquist adding further that “Utahns with the worst chronic illnesses require access to diverse methods of cannabis treatment. By limiting the program to only the cannabinoid CBD, Senator Vickers’ proposal leaves out thousands of Utahns.”
The organization also noted significant factual errors throughout the conversation lead by Senator Vickers at the Interim Committee hearing:
1) Much of the cannabis debate attention has focused on children who use CBD oil to combat intractable epilepsy and other severe neurological disorders. Some of these patients gain significant relief from this single-cannabinoid extract but new research points toward a synergistic effect of the many compounds found in the cannabis plant, revealing that an isolated cannabinoid (like CBD) may provide benefit for some patients, but only a very small minority. The combination of multiple, or even better, all cannabinoids may work best medicinally. According to the National Institutes of Health, the delicate interaction of cannabinoids and the other active compounds found in the plant — sometimes called the “entourage effect” — can be used to treat, at the very least pain, inflammation, depression, anxiety, addiction, epilepsy, cancer and bacterial infections. To have a viable, successful and effective medical cannabis program, access to the entire cannabis plant is critical.
2) A central argument posited by opponents of medical cannabis is that loosening restrictions on medical cannabis would send a message to teens that cannabis is “safe” and the result will be increased use of cannabis among teens. Evidence has repeatedly shown this notion to be inaccurate and false. Since 1996, 34 states have passed some sort of medical cannabis legislation but according to two new recently published studies, teen use of cannabis has fallen over that same period. One study, published in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, suggests one reason behind the downward trend in use: strong disapproval of cannabis use among younger teens is up sharply from where it was even 10 years ago. They found that teens aren't using cannabis largely by choice, not because it's less available to them.
3) The gateway theory argues that because heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine users often used marijuana before graduating to harder drugs, it must be a “gateway” to harder drug use. This claim has been debated and tested by scientists in various ways across many settings. To date, studies have NOT shown that the “gateway” explanation is supported at all by the scientific evidence. If anything, cannabis has been shown to work as a gateway out of opiate-based drug use, not the reverse. This is sobering considering that 21 Utahns die each month from a prescription pain medication overdoses and many more are hospitalized.
4) The documented use of cannabis as a safe and effective therapeutic medicine dates all the way back to 2700 BC. Between 1840 and 1900, European and American journals of medicine published more than 100 articles on the therapeutic use of cannabis and, in fact, cannabis was part of the American pharmacopoeia until 1942. A double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study published in the Journal of Pain on Sept. 16, 2015, looked at the effectiveness of using vaporized, inhaled cannabis in 39 participants. These participants were experiencing neuropathic pain despite having tried traditional treatments (opiate-based drugs). The researchers found that these chronic pain patients who, for the duration of the study, used medical cannabis every day for a year did not experience an increase in serious adverse events compared to patients who did not use the treatment. This is far from the first study to illustrate the medical benefits of cannabis. In fact, cannabis has been identified as a powerful and safe medical alternative in many peer-reviewed studies.
5) Limiting the number of locations where cannabis can be purchased to five throughout the entire State of Utah will create significant barriers for patients. Ensuring that all patients have access to safe, regulated dispensaries and the expertise therein, is a vital piece to any legitimate and robust medical cannabis program. Forcing patients to receive their medicine via undetermined (and likely highly illegal) shipping methods is not a viable or fair solution.
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