After Colorado passed the bill with regard to recreational marijuana this January, it is now Utah’s turn to allow children with severe epilepsy to use cannabis to help them with seizures. The conservatory state’s Republican Governor Gary Herbert approved the law and held a signing ceremony Tuesday along with approximately 50 parents and children at the state Capitol in order to celebrate a better treatment for infants struggling with epilepsy. However, even with the law in hand, Utah still has to navigate a set of federal laws which do not allow medicinal cannabis production within the state, so the extract must be purchased from other states.
Colorado may have welcomed Utah on the list of states that allow children with severe epilepsy to use marijuana, but federal laws put parents’ strength to the test. Since the new law does not allow medical cannabis production in Utah, parents have to travel to Colorado in order to purchase the extract that does not produce a high. However, Colorado experts warn parents from Utah that restrictions will make it harder for them to purchase marijuana-derived products, especially since all state medical cannabis laws are illegal under federal laws. Irrespective of the risks involved, Utah Representative Gage Froerer, a Republican from Huntsville stated that parents “are willing to take that risk to treat their children with the oil.”
Although Utah officially allows children with severe epilepsy to use marijuana so that the number of seizures decreases, it will take effect on July 1 and expires in 2016. Moreover, the use of cannabis is restricted only to epilepsy patients who do not react to regular treatments anymore and a neurologist must offer his consent before the extract can be used.
The oil is extracted from a strain of marijuana called Charlotte’s Web, named after the first child who was successfully treated with it and it is considered effective because the plant is low in THC, the hallucinogenic chemical and high in CBD, a chemical which reportedly fights seizures. Doctors already declared that there is no proof that the extract can indeed treat epilepsy, but parents are determined to use whatever it takes to alleviate the pain and diminish the number of seizures their children have to endure.
Utah may allow children with severe epilepsy to use marijuana extract to help them deal with the seizures, but the problems with the federal laws could represent a bigger issue than previously expected. However, Colorado’s non-profit Realm for Caring Foundation markets an oil called Alepsia which could qualify under the upcoming cannabis law of Utah. The law states that the extract must contain maximum 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical which gives a high and no less than 15 percent cannabidiol.
Since the Realm can only grow a limited number of plants for each patient, Alepsia is limited, so people on the wait list are offered the oil according to supply. Still, when Colorado passed the law in January 2014, it also enabled organizations to obtain a Hemp Grower’s License to grow the plant as an agricultural crop.
For now, if parents want to obtain Alepsia oil made of marijuana extract, they have to become Colorado residents and apply for a medical cannabis card from the same state, but at the same time one of the child’s parents must remain a Utah resident, since the oil cannot be brought home without also holding a Utah Hemp Registration Card. Although the details of the law have not been thoroughly discussed yet and the federal laws could cause trouble to parents who wish to purchase such an oil from other states, Utah now allows children with severe epilepsy to use marijuana to help them with seizures.
By Gabriela Motroc