State senator filing bill to fund medical marijuana research

Salt Lake City, Utah- (ABC4 Utah) – The debate over medical marijuana in Utah is heating up again this week.
We could see a handful of bills addressing the issue, and a state senator is ready to file one of them.

Senator, Brian Shiozawa wants research to guide future decisions.

His bill would create a first of its kind collaboration to study the potential benefits and downsides of using medical marijuana.

This year the state legislature passed a resolution encouraging the federal government to reschedule marijuana from a class one to class two drug for the purposes of scientific research.

That didn't happen at the federal level, but Shiozawa, a medical doctor is taking the next step.

"This bill will actually look at pushing forward official, evidence based research at our major research institutions. Like the University of Utah, USTAR, Huntsman, the VA and other places like that," said Shiozawa, (R) Cottonwood Heights.

Shiozawa says his bill will provide funding through existing state and federal money.

It will get around legal issues by utilizing DEA endorsements to study the drug.

He says if passed real patients, with real conditions will be able to enroll in clinical studies.

"What we need is information that says does this work, or doesn't it, and if it does how should it be used," said Shiozawa.

Following two failed bills to allow patients access to medical marijuana during this years legislative session advocates are weary.

"There are many studies already. First world, world class leading research, especially out of Israel. It's unfortunate that legislators think we need more studies," said Libertas Institute Utah President, Connor Boyack.

Boyack says Utahns have needs now.

He says studies and increased access should run concurrent.

"We've got thousands of Utahns who have cancer, and chronic pain, and epilepsy, and ALS and the list goes on and on who are going to be left out in the cold," said Boyack.

He says making people wait is unacceptable public policy.

As someone who deals with the issue on the front lines, Shiozawa says he's sensitive to the urgency, but he says this is an opportunity to make a lasting impact.

"We can take this evidence forward, and publish it and make sure that the whole world knows about this," said Shiozawa.

He plans to file his bill this week.

Boyack says as many as five bills on medical marijuana could be introduced in the next session.

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