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Utah Senate OKs bills giving terminally ill access to medicinal cannabis

SALT LAKE CITY — The Senate gave preliminary approval Tuesday to a pair of bills intended to allow patients with less than six months to live to try medicinal cannabis products produced from marijuana grown by the state.

Senate Minority Whip Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City, urged support of HB195, saying her late husband, former state Sen. Ed Mayne, was told a decade ago by his doctor that marijuana would ease his suffering from the "worst of the worst cancer."

Mayne said he decided against taking the advice because "he was a senator and didn't want to go there." She said although he was given two years to live, he died within nine months.

"We need to give relief. That's what we're here for. We're here to help," Mayne said. She said senior citizens "are using this and it is coming. You need to give guidelines for them, give relief to not just the patients, but the families."

The sponsor of HB195, Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, said the "right to try" bill gives a patient determined by a doctor as having less than six months to live the opportunity to try medicinal forms of marijuana other than smoking or inhalation.

"It is what it is," Vickers said of the bill, noting it is opposed by backers of an initiative to legalize medical marijuana that could go before voters in November. He said he doesn't understand their opposition.

This bill, Vickers said, "needs to stand on its own merits. It has the potential to help some people."

Senate Assistant Minority Whip Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, raised concerns about the definition of a terminally ill patient, asking, "If you get better because you get relief, is that not supposed to be the purpose of this?"

HB195, which has already passed the House, was advanced 22-4 to a final vote by the Senate.

A companion bill, HB197, that directs the Department of Agriculture to grow cannabis in the state for use by the approved patients, was given preliminary approval by the Senate, 22-3, and is awaiting funding before a final vote.

The House passed another Vickers' bill, SB130, directing the state to apply for a federal waiver for doctors to prescribe cannabidiol, or CBD oil, through a pharmacy. The product can't now be sold legally, though its available throughout the state.

Rep. Susan Duckworth, D-Magna, said she buys it at a health food store.

"Are they selling that illegally?" she asked on the House floor. "At the health food store?"

House sponsor Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem, said the bill, which passed 49-20, allows the state to regulate CBD oil to ensure proper labeling and head off the sale of fake products.

Contributing: Dennis Romboy