Potential Congressional Vindication of Utah Hemp Extract Patients

Dec 12, 2014 | Labs Blog

By Danny Barber for BiolawToday.org blog:

Danny BarberIn the past few years, the cultural attitudes towards the medical use of hemp extracts and marijuana have greatly changed. In one of the more public Utah examples, this past March Governor Gary Herbert signed into law H.B. 105, thereby decriminalizing the cultivation, possession, and use of hemp extract for the treatment of epilepsy (for specific permit holders).[1] Now codified in the Utah Code at sections 4-41-103, 26-55-103 and 58-37-4.3, the law permits the “Department of Agriculture and department-certified institutions of higher education to grow industrial hemp for the purposes of agricultural or academic research…” and exempts individuals with “intractable epilepsy”, and their guardians, who possess appropriately labeled and processed hemp extract along with a “current hemp extract registration card issued by the Department of Health” from liability under the Utah Controlled Substances Act.[2] Since this laws enactment, 25 permit holders, along with oversight from Neurologists at Primary Children’s Hospital, have been able to begin drug trials on the efficacy of the hemp extract without fear of state prosecution.[3]

However, despite this immunity granted by the state of Utah, the permit holders still face many criminal dangers in obtaining the hemp extract, as the possession of such extracts and their transportation over state lines are still prosecutable offenses under federal law. Currently there is one “mass produced” strain of hemp within reach of the Utah permit holders in neighboring Colorado that has the chemical characteristics that fall within Utah’s statutorily defined acceptable quantities of delta-9-tetrahydrolcannabinol (i.e. THC, the chemical component of cannabis that creates the “high” which both federal governments and many state governments suppress) whilst still providing therapeutically high levels of cannabidiol (i.e. CBD, one of the chemicals being investigated for the treatment of epilepsy).[4] Thus, the Utah permit holders and guardians must subvert federal law, or rely on individuals who do, to obtain these hemp extracts for their treatments.

Fortunately for those individuals who do hold the Utah granted permits, federal legislation has been proposed to clarify the federal government’s position towards these potentially therapeutic hemp extracts.[5] The bill, entitled Charlotte’s Web Medical Hemp Act of 2014, was introduced by republican Representative Scott Perry from Pennsylvania’s fourth district.[6] Currently referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations, the bill is an indication of the changing federal attitudes toward such hemp extracts from both parties.[7] While it is true that Attorney General Eric Holder has stated that “prosecut[ing] patients with serious illnesses or their caregivers who are complying with state laws on medical marijuana” will not be a priority for use of federal resources, it is promising for the hopeful Utah permit holders to have federal legislative vindication being considered in Washington.[8]

Danny is currently a second year law student at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law, where he is a member of the Utah Law Review. Danny graduated with an honors degree from Westminster College, receiving a B.S. in Neuroscience. Prior to law school, Danny worked as an analytical chemist and spent time in Utah’s venture community while obtaining his MBA from Westminster College. Danny is actively pursuing an interest in Intellectual Property law, and spent his 1L summer clerking for Austin Rapp & Hardman. For his 2L summer, he will be joining Maschoff Brennan as a summer associate. In his spare time, he enjoys many outdoor activities including running, hiking, and exploring Utah’s mountains.



[1] Danielle Manley, Utah Issues First Permits for Cannabis Oil, S.L. Trib. (July 9, 2014), http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/58161184-78/oil-cannabis-epilepsy-permits.html.csp.

[2] Utah Code Ann. § 4-41-103 (West 2014); Utah Code Ann. § 26-55-103 (West 2014); Utah Code Ann. § 58-37-4.3 (West 2014)

[3] Kristen Stewart, Utah Hospital Will Use Cannabis Extract to Treat Kids With Epilepsy, S.L. Trib. (June 30, 2014), http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/58124187-78/epidiolex-primary-cbd-epilepsy.html.csp; See Manely, supra note 1.

[4] Sandra Young, Marijuana Stops Child’s Severe Seizures, CNN (Aug. 7, 2013), http://www.cnn.com/2013/08/07/health/charlotte-child-medical-marijuana/.

[5] H.R. 5226, 113th Cong. (2nd Sess. 2013).

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] David Stout, U.S. Won’t Prosecute in States That Allow Medical Marijuana, N.Y. Times (Oct. 19th, 2009), http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/20/us/20cannabis.html?_r=0.