State senator calls for more research on medicinal benefits of marijuana

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 Utah) – Two bills on medical marijuana have cleared committee on Utah's Capitol Hill, and now a third is getting in the mix.


State Senator Brian Shiozawa says there simply needs to be more research, so he's introducing a resolution to make that happen.


The tides are turning on the debate over medical marijuana in Utah.


"I think it's great to see more people interested in medical marijuana reform. I think it's a positive thing we've been able to change that conversation in conservative Utah," said Connor Boyack with Libertas Institute.


This year two bills have been introduced.


One, would expand the legal use of cannabidiol in Utah.


The other, would legalize the whole plant for medicinal purposes.


But Senator Shiozawa says something is missing.


"There are a lot of anecdotal reports out there, there are observation reports, but actual research on Schedule I cannabis we need that research," said Shiozawa, (R- Salt Lake City).


That's why Shiozawa, a medical doctor is sponsoring a resolution asking the federal government to re-classify marijuana to a Schedule II drug.


He says doing that will open the door to unprecedented research.


"We need to identify whether or not there really is a medical benefit from marijuana, what is the benefit, and who benefits from it and what the safety profile is," said Shiozawa.


Supporters of medical marijuana say sufficient studies have been done.


"The fundamental problem with this resolution is it's kicking the can down the road. These patients can't wait for decades for congress to get its act in order, for researchers to get studies under way," said Boyack.


Boyack is backing the whole plant bill.


He isn't opposed to the resolution, but he wants to keep the focus on the opportunity at hand.


"The ball is in the court of the Utah Legislature to do substantive reform right now. The resolution is fine, lets pass it, but we also have to pass something that can help these patients here in Utah," said Boyack.


Senator Shiozawa says he's mindful of the urgent need, and says the studies can get done promptly.


"I envision this to be actually not an issue of years down the road, but perhaps months down the road," said Shiozawa.


The resolution still needs to go before a committee.


The other two bills are expected to hit the Senate floor later this week or the first of next week.


Shiozawa has already had conversations with local researchers, including; the University of Utah, the Huntsman Cancer Institute and the VA Medical Center.


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