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Editorial: Utah should do more to make cannabis extract available

Pursue sale, study of cannabis oil.

First Published Jul 28 2014 04:32 pm • Last Updated Jul 28 2014 04:33 pm

Often, the divide between the "conservative" and the "progressive" political points of view comes down to the former believing that the latter is rushing headlong into anarchy, which will harm the weak and innocent, while the latter sees the former as clinging to an unreasonable fear of change, even when that change promises to be liberating.

There’s an issue on which both sides of Utah’s political divide could get together. As unlikely as it may sound, that’s marijuana.

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Not marijuana in the recreational mellow-and-munchies sense. Not the full legalization that Colorado and Washington state are experimenting with.

But cannabis oil, a compound that may ease the horrible suffering of children afflicted by forms of intractable epilepsy or other seizure-causing disorders.

The Utah Legislature has already taken the first step. In their last session, lawmakers passed a bill known as Charlee’s Law, named for 6-year-old Charlee Nelson, who suffered from a crippling form of epilepsy and who died days after the law was passed. That law created a process where parents of children suffering from severe forms of epilepsy, ailments not eased by conventional medicine, could legally acquire a non-psychotropic marijuana derivative called cannabidiol.

But even with the legal process in place, even with legal marijuana operations in nearby Colorado, even with federal officials looking the other way as Colorado tries out its new approach, actually getting hold of enough cannabidiol to meet the demand is proving difficult. Families are looking to form caravans — or even move to Colorado — to meet their children’s needs.

State Sen. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George, was one of the sponsors of Charlee’s Law and now he has floated a reasonable trial balloon suggesting that the substance be sold through Utah state liquor stores. It won’t happen right away, but it is an idea worth a hard look. It would allow the state to control the market, limit the sale to those who really need the product and provide a level of assurance that the cannabis extract is what its suppliers say it is.

A further good idea was put forward by Jennifer May, a co-founder of the support group Hope 4 Children with Epilepsy. She suggests that the whole process could take place in Utah. An institution such as Utah State University, a research institution that focuses on growing things, could be put in charge of growing and processing cannabidiol — and monitoring the results — under strict scientific scrutiny.

This is an issue where Utah could, and should, truly lead the nation.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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