Time moves slowly when you’re in pain. It moves even slower when your loved one is suffering and you are anxious to provide relief. Medical marijuana is a promising solution — even life changing for some — but between sound bites and social media, it’s easy for voters to get bogged down in the “weeds.”
Rather than rushing to vote for Proposition 2, which puts patients, youths and children at risk, Utah voters should support the safer, more responsible medical marijuana bill before the Utah Legislature. Gov. Gary Herbert has called for a special legislative session in November to vote on this new bill.
It is true that research shows that some components of marijuana are effective in providing relief for certain conditions. In fact, the federal government recently approved a pharmaceutical-grade cannabidiol, a marijuana component, for childhood epilepsy. More promising marijuana drugs are in the development and approval pipeline.
However, the marijuana proposed in Utah’s Proposition 2 is not “medical.” Doctors would not prescribe it. Pharmacies would not dispense it. Purchases would occur at dispensaries, where budtenders (with or without any medical training) would recommend marijuana-infused cookies, candy, sodas or other marijuana products, including free samples. Some Utahns would even be allowed to grow marijuana in their own yards.
With no prescription dosage, no guarantee of the quality, strength or efficacy of the marijuana product purchased, and no way to prevent the sharing of homegrown marijuana, Proposition 2 puts patients — and all Utahns — at risk for more problems. In short, today’s relief may inadvertently cause tomorrow’s suffering.
Our neighbor state provides some examples. After Colorado commercialized medical marijuana in 2009 (before legalizing recreational marijuana in 2012) marijuana-related traffic fatalities increased significantly, marijuana-related emergency room visits increased by 57 percent and marijuana-related hospitalizations increased by 66 percent.
A growing number of those emergency room visits and hospitalizations have been young children treated for marijuana poisoning after ingesting a parent’s marijuana products. Nationwide from 2006 to 2013, in states that legalized medical marijuana before 2000, the rate of marijuana exposure among children under 6 increased by almost 610 percent.
Passing Proposition 2 would put Utah’s children and youths at risk by increasing accessibility of child-appealing marijuana edibles throughout the state.
There is a safer medical marijuana option than Proposition 2. The new “Utah Medical Cannabis Act” would allow adequate access for true medical needs, while protecting patients, children and youths.
Under this new bill, marijuana-infused brownies, candy or other edibles would be prohibited. Medical marijuana would only be available in medicinal dosage forms including a tablet, skin patch or blister pack with up to 1 gram of unprocessed marijuana flower in each blister. And marijuana plants could not be grown on an individual’s property.
Qualifying patients with a medical cannabis card would purchase medical marijuana products in specialized state-licensed medical cannabis pharmacies, rather than privately owned dispensaries. A licensed pharmacist, who receives ongoing training in the dispensing of cannabis, would be behind the counter. There would be no free samples. Advertising “in any medium” would be illegal.
The new medical cannabis bill is a safer, more responsible solution than Proposition 2. It is a collaborative effort — a community compromise. While no one is getting everything they want, all sides have expressed support for the bill because it provides patient access to medical marijuana while minimizing recreational marijuana use.
It is a win-win-win for patients, children and public safety.
As Sen. Evan Vickers explained, “At the end of the day, patients have access to cannabis medication in a dosage form, and the physician feels comfortable in quantifying and recommending for that patient.”
Real medical marijuana relief is on the way this November, but not by voting for Proposition 2. The Utah Medical Cannabis Act, which will be voted on by legislators in a special session after the general election, provides compassion for patients and safeguards for the public. Caring Utah voters need only be “patient” just a little longer.