SALT LAKE CITY -- A University of Utah neurologist and two other Utah doctors announced their support this week for allowing a medical use of a marijuana extract for children who suffer from seizures.
In a letter sent to the state Controlled Substances Advisory Committee on Tuesday, pediatric neurologist Dr. Francis Filloux said the liquid form of medical marijuana is a promising option for children with epilepsy.
Filloux and the other doctors join a push led by one Utah mom to change state law to allow the use of the cannabis oil extract.
The extract, which is grown in neighboring Colorado, is believed by many to help children with a rare form of epilepsy known as Dravet syndrome.
The extract has low levels of THC, the chemical in marijuana that makes people high.
"The substance is not psychoactive or hallucinogenic," Filloux said in his letter, which was co-signed by two other university doctors. "It has absolutely no abuse potential."
Across the country, 20 states allow medical marijuana use, but Utah is not one of them.
By not allowing the cannabis oil in Utah, "we would be making the decision to limit access of our children to a potentially life-improving therapy," Filloux wrote.
Josh Stanley, a Colorado-based producer of the extract, told the committee that the level of THC in his product is so low that it under agricultural standards, it's considered a hemp product.
Families that are desperate for access to the drug have moved to Colorado just to purchase the extract, Stanley said.
Jennifer May, whose 11-year-old sun has Dravet syndrome, is one of the Utah mothers pushing to allow the product.
May said she has considered moving to Colorado for her son, but ultimately decided to stay in Utah.
"Not one of us has left this state to get this supplement," she told the committee. "We are waiting to do this the right way by not breaking laws or keeping information from our physicians about how we are treating our children."
The police officers, doctors and pharmacists on the Controlled Substances Advisory Committee don't have the power to decide if the extract can be brought into Utah.
Instead, they can provide a recommendation and input to the state Legislature about changing Utah's laws.
Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville, plans to introduce a bill on the issue in the next legislative session, which starts in January.
His proposal would allow hemp products, including medicinal oils, to be imported and exported in the state, as long as they have a low level of THC.
Froerer said he also plans to call for more research on the medical benefits of the product, which he said might eventually allow hemp to be grown in Utah.