The narrow 15-14 vote that squashed Senate Bill 259 in early March, which aimed at legalizing medicinal marijuana in Utah, has many still buzzing over the positive response, even from those who oppose it.
Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, told Salt Lake City Tribune’s Kristen Moulton that a no vote didn’t mean there wasn’t interest in the idea from many, including himself. However, being a pharmacist, he raised many issues he believes need to be addressed before he will agree to marijuana being used for medical purposes in Utah.
At the top of Vickers list was the question of a minimum-wage employee distributing a controlled pharmaceutical substance to a patient, which we agree should not happen. If marijuana is going to be used for medical purposes, then it should be treated as any other controlled substance and be dispensed by a trained pharmacist, not just anyone who can work a cash register.
Although many assume marijuana is a dangerous substance, we disagree that it is as dangerous as lawmakers have indicated it to be over the years.
Cannabis has been stigmatized since the early 20th century when Congress regulated it under the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. In 1970, lawmakers decided to classify marijuana as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act, which indicates that cannabis is as dangerous to the public as heroin because of its high potential for abuse. However, the stigma is dissipating throughout the United States, even in Utah.
A recent study conducted by UtahPolicy.com shows that 66 percent of Utahns are in favor of legalizing medicinal marijuana, which makes it look increasingly inevitable that Utah may soon be on board with the other 23 states that already have a system for medial marijuana in place.
We see this as a move in a positive direction for individuals suffering from cancer, Hodgkin lymphoma, fibromyalgia and those being treated with prescription painkillers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and methadone. A report done in 2011 showed that the rate of overdoses from prescription painkillers had tripled over the last decade in the United States with Utah residents rating high in fatalities, especially among men between the ages of 25-54.
The Utah Health Department website shows that “Downtown Ogden has the 3rd highest rate of prescription pain medication overdoses in Utah.” Officials from the Utah Department of Health, Weber Human Services and the Weber-Morgan Health Department are working in collaboration to prevent further overdoses by releasing a new toolkit and pocket card for community leaders and citizens.
We don’t know about you, but we haven’t read any stories of people overdosing from marijuana abuse or cases where people have become completely irrational because they didn’t get their pot fix. We agree there needs to be clear legislation passed on medicinal marijuana, but we also agree it is time to evolve its use because it has shown to be a much safer and less harmful prescription for patients in need of relief.