UMA & Marijuana

Although the Utah Medical Association (UMA) had a definite policy in opposition to Proposition 2 on the November 2018 Utah ballot, UMA is NOT opposed to the idea or use of cannabis in medical settings where regulations are in place to discourage misuse and where the policy follows research and medical science can give adequate assurance of safety and efficacy.

As such, UMA has participated in negotiations to develop a new Utah Medical Cannabis Act bill which was introduced in a special legislative session which the Governor called in December 2018. To see a copy of the original draft of the new bill, CLICK HERE. To see what was finally passed by the legislature, CLICK HERE. You can also see Summary information and Charts HERE. This compromise bill puts physicians in charge of diagnosing the patients, dosing the medical marijuana, and puts medical marijuana in a dosage format similar to other medications. Patients will pick up their medication from community health departments or specialty pharmacies (not marijuana industry dispensaries). The bill protects children, vulnerable populations and the general public from dispensaries dispensing recreational marijuana.

UMA has supported and will support reasonable medical marijuana laws which fall within the bounds set by the UMA House of Delegates, which follow the science and research and the maxim of "first, do no harm." Here are examples of what UMA has supported in the past:

Cannabidiol Legislation

UMA supported and helped draft 2014 legislation (HB 105) which allows qualifying patients with intractable seizures from epilepsy to participate in the University of Utah research study using CBD oil as a treatment, and using controlled doses appropriate for each patient and their condition. Preliminary results of these studies seem to indicate that about one-third of patients are seeing some positive effects at diminishing the severity or frequency of seizures. In 2018, Senate Bill 130 charges the Utah Department of Agriculture with regulating cannabidiol, including its sale and use and the growing, production and possession of hemp. Cannabidiol must contain less than 0.3% THC and no more THC than 1/10 the amount of cannabidiol. It allows for the distribution of cannabidiol through a pharmacy if the DEA approves a waiver requested in the bill. The bill prohibits a court from considering a parent’s use of cannabidiol under this law in a child custody case.

Right to Try Legislation

In 2018,  UMA supported House Bill 195 which adds cannabis in medicinal dosage form to the Utah Right to Try Act for patients with a terminal illness, i.e., an incurable and irreversible disease that will, within reasonable medical judgment, result in death within six months. A physician may recommend a cannabis-based treatment to a terminally ill patient if the physician believes the treatment may provide some benefit to the patient. The cannabis must be obtained from a state-approved source (Determined by the Department of Agriculture who regulates and produces the product or approves the production of the product).  House Bill 197 then directed the Utah Department of Agriculture, by 2019, to regulate the cultivation and processing of cannabis in the state for research purposes and for “right to try” (HB195) usage. The bill also creates a state dispensary for cannabis in medicinal dosage form. This bill applies to any cannabis that has more than 0.3% THC.

A few recent articles of note:

Review of Reviews for Medical Cannabinoids
Article from Feb 2018 issue of Canadian Family Physician.

Conclusion: There is reasonable evidence that cannabinoids improve nausea and vomiting after chemotherapy. They might improve spasticity (primarily in multiple sclerosis). There is some uncertainty about whether cannabinoids improve pain, but if they do, it is neuropathic pain and the benefit is likely small. Adverse effects are very common, meaning benefits would need to be considerable to warrant trials of therapy.
     - Accompanying editorial: The Cannabis Paradox

Articles on Cannabis in Utah Physician Magazine

August/September 2018 - Why Marijuana Will Not Fix the Opioid Epidemic

April/May 2018 - Question of the Year

October/November 2017 - Medical Cannabis Initiative: Paving the Road to Recreational Use

August/September 2016 - Special Issue: Cannabis in the Clinic?

Cannabis Research Bills

All current medical cannabis research bills that have passed in Utah were supported by UMA. In fact, UMA helped draft or improve many of them. This has allowed research in Utah to accelerate and has helped to differentiate between anecdotal reports, junk science, and valid scientific results.  Part of the 2016 Senate Concurrent Resolution 11 encouraged researchers at the University of Utah, USTAR, U of U Medical School, Huntsman Cancer Institute, the VA Medical Center and others to collaborate on a formal study of the medical benefits of marijuana and report their findings back to the legislature. In 2018, House Bill 25 expanded the role of the Cannabinoid Product Board to include reviewing research of cannabis in medical dosage form. 

UMA House of Delegates Resolutions

UMA's positions on all medical marijuana issues has been directed by resolutions from its official policy-making body, the UMA House of Delegates. The House is a representative body of physicians from all over the state and from nearly every specialty. The following resolutions were adopted:

Fall 2015 - RESOLUTION A3 – Medical Marijuana

RESOLVED, that UMA continue its opposition to the legalization of marijuana for either medical or other purposes, with the exception of well-controlled clinical trials of specific marijuana products, approved by appropriate agencies of the Federal Government (DEA and/or FDA) or approved by the state of Utah mirroring the federal approaches; and be it further

RESOLVED, that UMA urge the Federal Government (FDA and DEA) to review marijuana’s status as a federal Schedule I controlled substance with the goal of facilitating the conduct of clinical research and development of cannabinoid-based medicines and alternative delivery methods.

Fall 2016 - RESOLUTION A1 – Medical Cannabis

RESOLVED, That UMA promote public awareness of the issues regarding the legalization of marijuana and status of current scientific research about its use; and be it further

RESOLVED, That UMA work closely with the Governor and Legislature on this issue to avoid steps that would lead to broader recreational use, especially among youth; and be it further

RESOLVED, That UMA oppose resolving this issue through a citizens’ ballot initiative.


UMA Statements on Current Marijuana Initiative

April 2018 - The Utah Medical Association Board of Directors issued this statement on the initiative (Prop 2).

August 2017 - Op-Ed Article "Pot is Not a Prescription" by UMA Past President Paul N. Clayton, MD

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Last Reviewed January 23, 2024