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Bills directing cannabis growing in Utah, giving access to dying patients, to go before full Senate

Bills directing cannabis growing in Utah, giving access to dying patients, to go before full Senate

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SALT LAKE CITY — The Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Wednesday approved a pair of bills promoting the growth of full-strength marijuana in the state and terminally ill patients' right to try medicinal cannabis products.

HB197, a bill instructing the Department of Agriculture to grow cannabis in the state that passed the House earlier this month with the fewest allowable votes, and HB195, which allows patients defined as terminally ill to use cannabis products if recommended by a doctor, are now slated to be considered by the full Senate.

Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem, is the sponsor of both bills. Daw said that besides HB195 providing relief for terminally ill patients, it also allows for the state to gain "some experience in how to distribute these things, which we clearly don't have now."

He described HB195 as "probably a first step on the path … that may lead to other measures in the future."

Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, told Daw he was disappointed the bill doesn't offer the same opportunities to others.

"What about the terminally suffering?" Dabakis asked.

But the senator said he would favorably recommend it in hopes it would "give some comfort to those who fall into the category of terminally ill."

Justin Arriola, an industry liaison for Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education, or TRUCE, said the organization cannot support the measure because it is too prohibitive in limiting the number of terminally ill patients to whom a doctor can recommend cannabis products.

"We feel like limiting the numbers to 25 patients is a little more restrictive than we'd like to see," Arriola said.

Daw told the committee that the hotly contested HB197 is an important part of sourcing the cannabis that terminally ill patients would use under HB195.

He said HB197 was arrived at after thinking "long and hard" about the most responsible way to grow the plant to ensure sustainable access for terminally ill patients and encourage research of medical cannabis in Utah.

Daw and Arriola disagreed with whether HB197 is based in the most rigorous scientific practices available as it concerns growing cannabis.

The Department of Agriculture testified in favor of HB197, saying the framework it provides for growing cannabis in Utah is the method most likely to ensure it is produced and distributed safely.

G. Edward Leary, the commissioner of the Utah Department of Financial Institutions, said his agency is opposed to HB197 strictly due to "the payment processing portion," which he said places requirements on the department that could put them in the crosshairs of federal regulators.

The Utah Medical Association and Sutherland Institute attended Wednesday's hearing in support of both HB197 and HB195.

Also Wednesday, the Senate voted 28-0 to approve SB130, a bill that would install regulations ensuring products claiming to be CBD oil are as advertised and also seek a federal waiver allowing doctors to formally recommend the substance to their patients. It will now go to the House for consideration.

Ben Lockhart

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