Senate committee OKs resolution to reclassify marijuana

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Marijuana plant, Cannabis Background.

Marijuana plant, Cannabis Background.

A state Senate committee unanimously agreed with University of Utah researchers, the Utah Medical Association and president of the Utah Eagle Forum — marijuana shouldn’t be classified with drugs like heroin, LSD and ecstasy, so that researchers can more easily study it.

Sen. Brian Shiozawa, R-Salt Lake City, has sponsored Senate Concurrent Resolution 11 this year calling on Congress to reclassify the drug as a Schedule II drug, and encourages researchers to study the benefits of medical marijuana.

“We have some big questions here that need to be asked and answered,” Shiozawa said.

The resolution states that the classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug is inappropriate and “impedes legal research by industries and universities” into the drug, the medical use of which is legal in at least 23 states.

Dr. Edward Clark, chairman of the department of pediatrics at the University of Utah, said there are at least five departments at the school currently studying the effects of cannabidiol, also known as CBD, a compound found in cannabis. The most visible study being done on cannabidiol now at the university is one on children with epilepsy. There’s also the potential for marijuana substances being used in the management of chronic pain.

“There are some who estimate within two to three years a pharmaceutical-grade of cannabidiol will be available on the market,” Clark told the committee on Tuesday.

He said research institutions need an endorsement on their DEA license now in order to study marijuana, because of its classification, and “while these are tedious, they’re not impossible.”

Gayle Ruzicka, president of the conservative Utah Eagle Forum, says this resolution is the answer to the medical marijuana legalization question.

“This is the only thing that makes sense at all,” she told the committee. “It needs to be studied.”

The Utah Medical Association agrees. “This is absolutely the best approach,” said Michelle McOmber, chief executive officer of the association. It backs making a decision based on science, not emotion.

Shiozawa says he’s bothered that proactive steps on medical marijuana research haven’t been taken before. And he’d like the federal government to get moving on the change.

“I gotta tell you, I don’t think it’s as bad as the people say about it, and I don’t think it’s the panacea, the cure-all, that people say it is,” he said.

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Amie Rose has more than 14 years of experience writing and editing at newspapers in Utah and New Mexico. She graduated from BYU with a degree in journalism. She lives in Utah Valley with her husband, toddler and crazy dog.

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