Utah has the distinction of being one of the first states to ban marijuana in the early 1900s, so it is not surprising that they are slow to legalize it in any form. There is some speculation that banning marijuana in Utah was due to some religious influences, but the lack of haste in lifting any portion of that ban is more likely a political concern.
Since 2014, Utah has had a very limited medical marijuana program. The state legalized the use of cannabis oil that is low in THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, to treat a small number of patients. Qualified patients were diagnosed with intractable epilepsy and need the cannabis to reduce debilitating seizures.
This original medical marijuana program had the potential to help a very small number of patients with just one chronic disease. There is no data available, but one can assume no one benefitted from this program. The legislation made no provisions for supplying those patients with the cannabis oil.
Subsequent attempts to establish a robust medical marijuana program in Utah have all failed so far. A bill introduced in the state senate in 2015 would expand the use of cannabis oil to patients diagnosed with conditions such as:
The bill did not pass a vote in the Senate.
Again in 2016, a similar bill was proposed. This one included provisions for regulating cultivation of cannabis and tracking patient data. A competing bill came up in the same term that would also open cannabis oil use to people with more serious chronic diseases and would provide for testing and research of cannabis for medical uses.
The only result of the 2016 Utah legislative session was a resolution to urge Congress to change the classification of marijuana to a Schedule II substance. In 2017, Senate Bill 211 proposed authorization of cultivation, possession, and sale of cannabis, but the bill has not been passed yet. Marijuana advocates continue to press state lawmakers to pass a comprehensive medical marijuana law and establish a robust program in Utah.
Currently, the Utah Patients Coalition is in the process of gathering signatures to put legalizing medicinal cannabis on the ballot for the 2018 election.
Under the current medical marijuana program, only patients who are diagnosed with epilepsy have a chance of getting cannabis oil treatment to relieve their seizures. The cannabinoid CBD can be very effective at reducing the length and frequency of seizures. In severe cases, epilepsy is debilitating and even causes brain damage.
The misfirings in the brain that cause seizures are of unknown origin, but they can cause damage. The longer the seizure goes on, the more damage brain tissue can experience. Cannabis relaxes the brain and stops the random and erroneous signal transfers.
People who experience severe seizure activity with epilepsy find it almost impossible to conduct their daily activities. There are often no warning signs that a seizure is about to start. Depending on the environment, a seizure can cause physical damage to the body. It may also present other dangers, like falling down the stairs or causing a traffic accident.
Cannabis therapy that reduces seizures can be life-changing for a patient with epilepsy. There are many other conditions that can be relieved by marijuana treatment. Hopefully, in time, the state of Utah will make this healing plant available to more patients.