ST. GEORGE – An effort to put the question of legalizing medical cannabis on the 2018 ballot moved a step closer to reality Thursday as the Lt. Governor’s Office gave the initiative approval to start gatherings signatures; one family in St. George with a 10-year-old child who has been treated with a handful of cannabis extracts is lending their voice to the proposition.
“We plan to gather the first signatures by next week and be finished prior to the 2018 legislative session in January,” said DJ Schanz, campaign co-director for Utah Patients Coalition, the medical cannabis advocacy group that filed the initiative in June.
“Our volunteers – many of them patients or caregivers themselves – have been ready and eagerly waiting,” Schanz said, “it feels good to know we will have scheduled events in the coming weeks for those who have waited years for this.”
A Utah family turns to medical cannabis for their son
Among those waiting for medical cannabis to be legalized in Utah are David and Mandi Cromar whose family moved to St. George from Colorado earlier this year.
Watch video top of this report.
The Cromars moved to Colorado from Farmington, Utah, in late 2013 to gain access to a cannabis oil extract for their then 6-year-old son Holden who has a rare from of epilepsy.
At the time a law allowing a measure of access to a cannabis oil called cannabidiol, or CDB, had yet to make it’s way the Legislature. It passed in 2014, but that was too long of a wait at the time for the Cromars, who wanted to find relief for their son, they said. Holden was experiencing up to 100 seizures a day.
Unfortunately, once in Colorado, the Cromars found themselves at the bottom of a waiting list for Charlotte’s Web, a CBD oil they wanted to give Holden. While waiting to gain access to the CBD oil, they were introduced to a similar cannabis oil called THC-A
“Right away, we noticed a difference, almost like a fog had been lifted from his brain,” David Cromar said of the oil’s affect on Holden.
Prior to making the decision to use medical cannabis to treat Holden’s epilepsy, the boy was on a trio of trial medications in hopes of reducing the seizures. However, David Cromar said, the side effects of the drugs were “horrific.”
While on the pharmaceutical trials, his father said, Holden was much in a “zombie state” and was very “unresponsive” and “unemotional.” Holden’s parents chose to ween him off the medications and considered their options.
“What if we try medical marijuana?” David Cromar said. Believing that other options for his son would likely result in failed treatments, medical cannabis began to look like a viable option.
“We were very nervous about doing it, but we talked a lot as husband and wife, spent a lot of time in prayer, and we both knew pretty early on … that this was the right thing to do,” David Cromar said.
Mandi Cromar, Holden’s mother, said the decision was hard and trying but the more she learned about medical cannabis, the more she felt it could be a viable treatment for him.
Holden has now had more than three years of medical cannabis treatment. His mother said: “It’s honestly been the best medicine for him … I have my little boy back.”
The zombie state Holden had been experiencing began to break once he was given the THC-A oil. Where he had been unresponsive and even unable to retain simple facts he had previously learned, David Cromar said, Holden became an active child who was able to relearn what he had forgotten.
As well, once the Cromars gained access to CBD oil and used it in combination with the THC-A, it greatly reduced Holden’s seizure attacks.
“Now, with a plant, my baby is back,” Mandi Cromar said. “He can play, he can run around, he can learn, he can grow – it’s amazing.”
The Cromars also began to use another variety of the cannabis oil called CBN. With that, the recurrence of seizures Holden was experiencing lessened. However, CBN and other cannabis extracts the Cromars were able to use legally in Colorado are currently illegal in Utah.
“There are a lot of restrictions here that don’t allow us to get what he needs,” David Cromar said of Utah’s current medical marijuana laws. Only CBD oils are allowed – provided you have state-approved documentation to use it – and even then you have to travel out of state to get some because production within Utah remains illegal.
“CBD works well for (Holden), we can get that, but we’re going to fight for (more) access here in Utah,” David Cromar said.
While the Cromars are advocates for medical marijuana, David Cromar said his son still takes part in medication trials to help control his epilepsy.
Report continues below.
Supporting the ballot initiative
David Cromar and Holden were present at the June press conference with other medical cannabis advocates in Salt Lake City, during which the Utah Patients Coalition officially launched its ballot initiative.
His family is grateful for the groundwork that has been put in place by the patients coalition, David Cromar said, as well as the group Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education, also known as TRUCE.
For their part, the Cromars are sharing their story to spread awareness of their experience with using medical cannabis for their son.
“Being able to come here and actually share our knowledge and experience, what we know – that (cannabis) is medicine,” David Cromar said, describing his family’s efforts. “It’s the safest thing my son has experienced in relation to treatment.”
There are those who say more studies need to be done. But, David Cromar said, there are thousands of studies that already exist regarding the medical use of cannabis that the curious and state lawmakers can consult.
Utah lawmakers have attempted to pass marijuana policy in the state over the years with the 2014 law allowing access to CBD oil being about as far as laws providing access have come.
Last year a medical marijuana research bill sponsored by Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem, was passed, and gives state colleges and other institutions authorization to study marijuana’s claimed medicinal application.
However, supporters of the 2018 ballot initiative say that Utah patients don’t need a research bill, they need access.
“Patients need access to the entire spectrum of the plant,” David Cromar said, reiterating that the combination of oils containing THC and CDB greatly aided in reducing Holden’s seizures.
These days, 10-year-old Holden still experiences seizures, yet nowhere near the level he used to. There are days when he as has as few as three seizures a day, David Cromar said, to 24- and 48-hour rare periods when he experiences no episodes.
“We already know it works,” he said. “We just need access.”
The ballot initiative requires over 113,000 signatures from across 26 of Utah’s 29 senate districts to qualify for the 2018 ballot.
If passed, the new law would provide physician-approved medical cannabis to qualifying patients.
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