Pubdate: Sat, 08 Feb 2014
Source: Salt Lake Tribune (UT)
Copyright: 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune
Author: Kristen Stewart


Marijuana >> Drug Policy Expert Says Opening Borders to Cannabis Oil 
a Bad Idea.

An outspoken opponent of legalizing marijuana visited Utah on Friday 
to urge lawmakers to put the brakes on a bill that would give 
epileptic children access to nonintoxicating cannabis oils.

"These parents are not part of the marijuana movement .They are very 
good parents in a desperate situation. My heart goes out to them," 
said Kevin Sabet, director of the Drug Policy Institute at the 
University of Florida and co-founder of Project SAM (Smart Approaches 
to Marijuana).

But as a matter of policy, "there's a better and safer route" for 
them to get the medication they need, he said, referring to an 
investigational trial of GW Pharmaceuticals' Epidiolex, 
pharmaceutical-grade cannabidiol.

Known as CBD, cannabidiol is a non-psychoactive chemical in cannabis 
shown to have anti-seizure properties.

To open Utah's borders to cannabis - no matter how high in CBD or low 
in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical that produces a high in 
users - may not help and could harm families desperate for medical 
solutions, Sabet argues.

He recommends that lawmakers, instead, pass a resolution urging the 
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to speed approval of Epidiolex.

Health professionals can already apply with the drugmaker to run 
clinical trials. Each site can take up to 25 patients who, for the 
duration of the trial, receive Epidiolex for free, he said.

Utah parents pushing for CBD oil for their children are wary of the 
"there's a drug for that" argument. They say they've failed to 
persuade local hospitals to start trials, which don't guarantee 
access because FDA trials require some participants to be given placebos.

It could take years for the drug to come to market, they say, and 
when it does, it may be prohibitively expensive.

But Sabet counters that whole-plant CBD oils, like the highly touted 
Charlotte's Web produced by the Stanley brothers, Colorado-based pot 
growers, aren't cheap. There's a growing waiting list for the 
product, which means it's not readily available either, and there's 
no independent quality control to ensure it's safe for kids, he said.

Sabet, a conservative columnist and leading national spokesman for 
the anti-drug movement, also spoke Friday to a gathering of cops and 
addiction-treatment experts at the annual conference of the Utah 
Council for Crime Prevention.

While not opposed to easing criminal penalties for marijuana 
possession, he warned legalizing the drug - even just for medical use 
- - would "normalize" pot, hook more youths and serve only to line the 
pockets of a powerful marijuana industry.

"I'm not in favor of the status quo," he said. "But what I don't like 
is when people take advantage of people in desperate situations, and 
unfortunately the wider legalization movement has been doing that. It 
was cancer patients 10 years ago. Now it's kids with epilepsy."

Contrary to popular opinion, marijuana is addictive and dangerous, 
Sabet said. It's potency has tripled in the past 15 years, he said.

"Stuff being sold today - dabbing, waxes and butane hash oil 
extraction - is the kind of thing that would make Jerry Garcia turn 
round," he said.

Today's pot growers aren't "just a few underground hippies," he said. 
They're wealthy, college-educated business people wooing investors 
with pitches to become the "Anheuser-Busch of marijuana" or to 
introduce "the marijuana version of Marlboro cigarettes."

Sabet was preaching to the choir Friday. Prevention experts are 
already concerned about an upward trend in marijuana use among Utah's youths.

A recent survey found more Utah 10th-graders are using marijuana than 
are using cigarettes, said Susannah Burt, prevention director for the 
state Department of Substance Abuse and Mental Health.

"If weighing the risks for the community versus the benefits for a 
handful of families, I would say, 'Yes, I would prefer FDA studies to 
be conducted prior to supporting legalization of cannabidiol," she said.

Public opinion swings the other way - even in Utah, where a slight 
majority favor legalizing medical marijuana, a recent Salt Lake 
Tribune poll found.

But armed with alarming statistics, Sabet said states should think 
twice about following Colorado's lead
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom