SALT LAKE CITY — A bill introduced Wednesday would allow Utahns to buy a drug extracted from marijuana plants that has potential to help children who suffer from seizures.
HB105, sponsored by Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville, would legalize the possession and use of hemp oil extract, made from the cannabis plant. It calls for the Utah Department of Health to issue registration cards to residents who meet certain requirements, including a doctor's statement that the person would benefit from treatment with hemp extract.
Froerer earlier said the extract has been shown in small studies to reduce the number of daily seizures epileptic children experience.
Of the nearly 100,000 Utahns who suffer from epilepsy, about 33,000 have refractory, or difficult to control, seizures, and about 10,000 are children, according to the Epilepsy Association of Utah.
House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, said she hadn't read Froerer's bill yet but is "very much aware" of the issue, having spent time with mothers who believe their children are being helped by using the product.
"It's a tough issue," the speaker said. "The legalization of marijuana is not a path we want to take. But when you see real people and real children with significant challenges and it seems this product is helping those children, you have to think about it, think long and hard."
Lockhart, a nurse, said she is still deciding whether to support the legislation.
"I don't know yet where I am on it. It's one of those ones you do some soul-searching on," she said.
Lockhart said the issue is getting attention.
"A lot of people are listening, and a lot of people have great compassion for the situation these families are in," she said.
Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, said the big question is how hemp extract would be distributed. Niederhauser said he wants it to be available for children but in a controlled way.
"We're not going down the road like Colorado or Washington," he said. Both states legalized marijuana beginning this year.
Contributing: Lisa Riley Roche
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