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Medical pot proposal passes first test in conservative Utah

A panel of Utah lawmakers has given initial approval to a medical marijuana proposal that would allow residents of the conservative state who have chronic and debilitating diseases to use certain edible products containing THC, the chemical responsible for most of the drug’s psychological effects.

After a nearly two-hour debate, a Senate committee voted 3-2 earlier this week to approve the bill and send it to the full Senate for a vote.

Saratoga Springs Republican Sen. Mark Madsen said if the state can push past years of propaganda and misunderstanding surrounding the drug, it would bring compassion and freedom to those who are suffering.

The proposal does not allow the smoking of marijuana, which Madsen, its sponsor, said is unhealthy and an ineffective way to consume the drug.

Under his bill, patients would be issued medical marijuana cards. It also sets up a system of seed-to-sale regulation for licensed growers, producers and dispensers.

It specifies what conditions are eligible, such as AIDS, cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder. Medical specialists — not general practice doctors — would be able to prescribe medical marijuana. For example, Madsen said, someone with cancer would need their oncologist to recommend it.

If Utah passed the bill, it would join 23 states and District of Columbia where medical marijuana programs are in place, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Madsen said this week that he began researching the issue after suffering from persistent back problems. When his doctor recently recommended that he try a pot treatment, Madsen traveled to Colorado to try it through cannabis-infused gummy bears and an electronic-cigarette device.

He said he found the treatment effective, and it lessened his pain. If his doctor agrees that it would let him use fewer or no prescription painkillers, he’d consider taking a cannabis product again.

Madsen said he is confident his bill will pass the GOP-controlled state Senate, and he’s reasonably optimistic about its chances in the Republican-dominated House.

The GOP House speaker and Utah’s Republican governor have said they fear a medical marijuana law would lead to legalized recreational pot or broad recreational use through suspect prescriptions.

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