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Senate committee advances bill allowing hemp oil extract for seizure treatment

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SALT LAKE CITY — A Senate committee unanimously recommended a bill that would legalize the use of hemp oil extract, a non-intoxicating cannabis oil taken from marijuana plants, for seizure treatment.

HB105 was refined and amended several times, including the addition of a July 2016 sunset date on the bill to give the Legislature an opportunity to review the issue after a trial period. The Utah Medical Association now supports the legislation.

The bill has been of particular interest to the community affected by intractable epilepsy, frustrated by the only somewhat effective medication — which often has harsh side effects — available to treat refractory seizures.

About one-third of the 100,000 people in Utah who suffer from epilepsy have these refractory seizures that are difficult to control, according to the Epilepsy Association of Utah.

Bill sponsor Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville, said the long-term implications of the extract aren't known, but the individuals already have short lifespans and are on medications that cause major bodily harm.

"Most of these kids will only live to be 18 or 21, Froerer told the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Thursday. "But if we can give them a day or a week or a month of a higher quality of life, then I feel that the state of Utah owes these parents that opportunity to seek this out."

The hemp oil has been shown to drastically reduce seizures, in some cases from 100 seizures a day to zero.

If HB105 passes, Utahns could apply for a waiver from the department of health to possess and use hemp oil. Requirements to receive a waiver would include a board-certified neurologist's note recommending hemp oil treatment and stating the individual meets standards of intractable epilepsy.

The bill, which received a favorable recommendation from the committee, previously passed the House 62-11 and will now be sent to the full Senate for a vote.

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Madeleine Brown


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