Could Utah be the 29th state to legalize medical marijuana? Lawmakers, advocates and two-thirds of Utahns are now hopeful, as the conservative state progresses on its bill signed last month to conduct more research on the risks and benefits of the drug.
California was the first state in 1996 to recognize the drug’s various health benefits , including chronic pain relief and easing nausea during chemotherapy. But new clinical trials also suggest that dosages of THC could help cure many ailments, including ease muscle spasms for multiple sclerosis patients and reduce seizures for children with epilepsy.
The state already passed a law back in 2014 that allowed parents whose children suffered from severe epilepsy to obtain an extract of marijuana to help their children (though the extract was not available in the state itself.)
“Utah is very conservative in our approach to all things and this is no exception,” says Senator Evan Vickers. “We would much prefer to take a careful, balanced approach and follow the theme that “if it is truly a medicine, then treat it like a medicine both from the regulatory side and the medical side””.
A Step In The Right Direction
According to grassroots community leader Juanita Ramos Corum from M2M Utah, reaching for understanding about the drug is a step in the right direction. She has advocated for the safe distribution of the drug for the past four years, while working with Senator Vickers, the United Patients Group and Folium Biosciences (the largest, fully and vertically integrated producer of phytocannabinoid-rich (PCR) hemp oil in the world.) Her goal is to help the state and community better understand the science behind this plant-based medicine.
“What is missing is the science and education around the plant medicine,” she says. “That is why it was so important to create a strong alignment with United Patients Group who came to Utah to teach and share about the plant medicine.”
Representative Brad Daw, who works closely with Juanita and the Utah Medical Association, agrees. “The vast majority of doctors and researchers in the state are very clear on two points: There are a lot of exciting developments with medical cannabis and the research is still spotty and needs to be filled out. For some conditions, with some formulations, there has been great success and very little needs to be done to get us across the finish line. In other cases, we are just learning that there is a potential for treatment and we need to explore further.”
Ways It Could Work
Juanita’s expertise brings the human story to the forefront of the argument, as she’s seen countless stories of success by being both advocate and as a medicine woman. “The most touching was an 8 year-old who had cardoma, a molecular cancer on the brain stem. The doctors literally cut her head off her body and reattached with metal. This baby girl had to suffer through so many surgeries. She finally had relief through plant medicine. She was able to eat, be free of insane pain, and returned to school and her activities within a week. She even began playing hockey.”
She also pushes conversations for helping veterans with PTSD. “If we can integrate plant medicine with alternative programs like Project Welcome Home Troops, we can reduce the suicide rate in the veterans population, assist people to feel so much better and began tackling the epidemic of opiate addiction.”
Looking To The Future
The next steps for Utah involve bringing more experts into the fold, as they have today with an official symposium with the Folium Biometrics group, to better understand next steps. “We need targeted research which is what HB 130 is intended to provide as well as the funding that Sen. Shiozawa was able to get appropriated for 4 to 5 individual studies at the University of Utah and possibly other USTAR companies,” says Senator Vickers. “These targeted studies can give us ideas of how to treat specific conditions and what dosing protocol to follow.”
With proper protocols in place, the state is optimistic that the next steps could benefit constituents and patients alike.
“There appears to be a large demand,” says Rep. Daws. “If all the demand can be met both in quantity of product and genuine effectiveness of treatment then all of that production will certainly provide a positive benefit to the state’s economy.”
An economy that has plenty of room for the entrepreneurial woman.“I’m a transplant of Washington State where women have taken the time to learn, be patient, do it the correct way, and have an amazing business,” says Juanita. “Women have carved out their own place in the cannabis industry and have become some of the most knowledgeable grows, extractors, product developers, commercial bakers, and consultants from this amazing plant! There are so many economic opportunities for all of Utah in where we are going.”