Pubdate: Fri, 05 Feb 2016
Source: Salt Lake Tribune (UT)
Copyright: 2016 The Salt Lake Tribune
Author: Robert Gehrke


For the past six months, Dallas Sainsbury has treated her Crohn's 
disease with a cocktail of opiates, steroids, muscle relaxers and 
other medications that made her hazy and sick to her stomach, 
alongside numerous other side effects.

Then, while attending a concert with friends in Colorado, she tried 
marijuana and it eased her nausea, anxiety and the urgent need to use 
the bathroom. It also helped her get off the opioids that left her 
"high every day," led to her quitting school and made it impossible 
for her to work.

On Thursday, she urged senators to support a bill that would make 
Utah the 24th state to legalize medicinal marijuana.

"I know this can help so many people and this can prevent [opiate] 
addiction," she told a Senate committee. "I desperately hope that 
myself and others have access to this because I don't want to see 
myself or anyone else have to deal with opiate-addiction 
withdrawals," she told senators.

During four hours of testimony before two Senate committees Thursday, 
witnesses laid out a clear choice between two bills - one pitched as 
a modest first step, legalizing cannabis extracts without THC that 
have been shown to help in some cases; the other a bolder 
"whole-plant" option that would allow products with THC that several 
witnesses said are essential to their treatment.

In the end, both bills moved forward and will be debated by the full 
Senate - perhaps as early as next week - although a stark divide 
remains over the two bills, along with unease among some senators to 
embrace a more robust marijuana program.

"I wish there was a way we could heal all these hurts and heal all 
these ills," said Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City. "At the 
end of the day, the decision I have to make here is: Is my desire to 
try an experiment with something we don't have accurate data for, for 
the potential to help people who are hurting, does that outweigh the 
potential danger to public safety?"

Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, said his SB89 - the more incremental 
approach, which would legalize cannabidiol extracts from marijuana 
plants that have had THC removed - is designed to avoid increased use 
by youth, to prevent a movement toward recreational marijuana use, to 
keep criminal and black-market elements out of the business, and to 
provide relief to those who might benefit medically.

"Our goal through this whole process was to create a medical 
environment and a regulatory environment that would allow us to treat 
qualified patients in a compassionate manner," said Vickers, a pharmacist.

Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem, the co-sponsor of Vickers' bill, said he also 
wants to make sure the state gathers good data on the effectiveness 
of the cannabidiol products, or CBD oils.

"Let's find out what we don't know," he said. "Let's make sure 
research is paramount in this bill and make sure we have a way that 
that information is presented to the medical community and the state 
at large in a credible way."

But patients and caregivers of patients who said they have benefited 
from marijuana products with THC said the Vickers-Daw bill doesn't go 
far enough to give them the relief they have been willing to break 
the law to get.

The committee heard from Kennith Thomason, who was diagnosed with 
cancer in his appendix and colon six years ago and suffered burns to 
his internal organs during chemotherapy. Doctors prescribed opioids, 
but they caused side effects that caused his colon to back up, made 
him lose weight and made life "horrible." The only solution was more opioids.

When he tried marijuana, he said, his appetite returned, he regained 
his weight and he got off the opioids.

"[People] need to know they're not criminals for seeking an 
alternative," he said.

Doug Rice is a firefighter and paramedic who said his daughter began 
having seizures when she was 18. They tried several different 
medications, but she still was having up to 25 seizures a day.

"We lose a little bit of the child with each one of those seizures, 
and eventually we were going to see her die," Rice said.

They tried the CBD oil - without THC - and she improved, suffering 
two or three seizures a day, and then they tried a product with THC.

"We were blown away," said an emotional Rice. "My daughter had the 
first seizure-free day in three years."

Dr. Michael Holmstrom, president of the Utah State Orthopedic 
Society, said about 100,000 Utahns use opioids to treat pain, and 
legalized marijuana as proposed by Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Saratoga 
Springs, could offer a safer alternative. It is about as addictive as 
caffeine, he said, and there has not been a documented fatal overdose 
from the drug.

"In my opinion, [Madsen's bill] has the potential to make a very 
major impact on the opioid epidemic in Utah," Holmstrom said. Both 
bills would make the respective products available to those suffering 
from epilepsy, HIV or AIDS, pain caused by cancer, diabetes or 
strokes, or other diseases. Madsen's bill would make the THC-bearing 
products available to those suffering from chronic pain as well.

"This is about limited government, individual liberty, allowing 
people to own their own lives, own their own decisions," Madsen said.

Vickers said the goal of SB89 was not to kill the Madsen bill.

"We are simply providing a different path to achieve the same goal," 
he said. "We recognize our path is slower and more methodical, but we 
also strongly believe we need to be careful how we do this."

It was a sentiment echoed by Park City Police Chief Wade Carpenter, 
speaking on behalf of the Utah Chiefs of Police Association, who 
said, "As with any marijuana product shown to our youth, we're 
concerned about the potential effects of that."

And William Hamilton, president of the Utah Medical Association, 
which represents doctors in the state, said the Vickers bill is a 
good first step, allowing more research to proceed.

"We like the go-slow approach of Senate Bill 89," Hamilton said. 
"Perhaps," he said, "it's time to put the horse back in front of the cart."

But Sen. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George, said doctors treat diseases 
like chronic pain and seizures with drugs and, just because they're 
prescribed by a doctor, doesn't mean "it must be dandy."

"Powerful drugs are powerful things," he said. "Just because they 
have some made-up, nonsensical name attached to them, it doesn't mean 
they're not without risk ... especially when you're dealing with pain."

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee unanimously endorsed 
Vickers' bill, sending it forward for debate. The Senate Judiciary, 
Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee voted 4-1 to advance 
Madsen's bill. Both could come up for debate in the full Senate as 
early as next week.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom