SALT LAKE CITY — A lawmaker says Utah could ease the burden for families participating in the state's limited medical marijuana program by selling a cannabis extract in state liquor stores.
Under the program approved by Gov. Gary Herbert earlier this year, Utah residents with severe epilepsy are allowed to possess the low-potency extract, which some believe helps with seizures.
Utah law doesn't allow the production or distribution of the extract oil. Instead, Utah residents must travel to Colorado or other states to get it.
State Sen. Steve Urquhart, a St. George Republican who pushed for the program, said Utah could make that easier by allowing the product to be sold within the state, possibly at liquor stores.
"We're trying to look for ways to help these parents out. We realize this is a really rough situation they're in and a really rough situation for their kids. . Have we been helpful enough, or should we go further?" Urquhart told The Salt Lake Tribune (http://bit.ly/1qzzFUN). "Obviously, if they can get it, but get it in the state with the state's blessing, then that's probably easier than having them have to travel."
If it was available at state-run liquor stores, Utah could have some oversight, Urquhart said.
Many of the families taking advantage of Utah's new medical marijuana program hope to travel to Colorado to pick up the product or have it shipped in.
Utah allows only those with severe epilepsy and a doctor's approval to obtain the product. The extract, called cannabidiol, lacks the psychoactive properties that get users high.
Doctors and advocacy groups also have warned there's no proof yet that the extract is effective at treating epilepsy, or even safe.
Families of those with severe epilepsy, particularly young children, have pushed for access to the product in Utah and other states, hopeful it will improve their loved ones' the lives. While the Utah program was a big step forward for those families, it's still illegal under federal law, as are all state medical marijuana programs.
Urquhart said if Utah allowed the extract to be sold at pharmacies, the federal government could seize back accounts for the pharmacies if they decide to enforce the drug laws.
"Right now, DEA seems pretty hands-off on CBD oil, but nothing guarantees they're going to remain that way," Urquhart said. "So this is one of those states' rights bills, where we have parents who are suffering, we have children who are suffering, we think the federal laws are blind to their plight, so as a state we're going to authorize certain things."
Jennifer May, co-founder of Hope 4 Children with Epilepsy, said it would be ideal if a Utah university grew the product under a research license and families could pick it up in the state.
Urquhart is considering several ways the state would distribute the oil in Utah, but says he hopes families soon can get the product legally and he won't have to sponsor any legislation next year.
Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com