Cannabis bill moves forward after impassioned plea by Orem family 16

Emily and Aaron Campbell walk with their daughter Madelena as they leave the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City on Feb. 26, 2015, after testifying in support of SB259, a bill on the use of cannabis oil.

OREM -- Aaron and Emily Campbell put their public life on the line when they testified before a Utah Senate committee last month regarding Senate Bill 259.

The bill would have allowed expanded use of cannabis oil -- a non-psychoactive derivative of marijuana -- to treat certain medical conditions.

The committee voted 14-15 against the bill Monday evening.

“I’m so disappointed,” said Emily Campbell on Tuesday. “I ache because of the short-sightedness of our senators.”

According to Aaron Campbell in a public statement, “Senate Bill 259 strikes a brilliant balance between the control of cannabis extracts and a patient’s right to work with their doctor to find the best solution.”

As written, current law allows the oil to be used to treat those with only one type of epilepsy. Less than two dozen people in the state suffer from that condition.

“I feel like people are afraid of the unknown; I understand why,” Emily Campbell said. “I know this oil does amazing things.”

Campbell said that while lobbying senators they pulled out all the stops, even quoting from scripture of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Referring to the church's Doctrine and Covenants Section 89, known as the Word of Wisdom, the 10th verse reads, “And again, verily I say unto you, all wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man.”

The Campbells and others who testified said cannabis oil is purified and has absolute profound positive effects on patients with a variety of neurological diseases such as mulitple sclerosis and other infirmities including cancer and fibromyalgia.

Maddie Campbell, the Campbells' daughter, suffers from metachromatic leukodystrophy (MLD), a rare, genetic, degenerative, neurometabolic disorder that affects approximately one in 40,000 people (primarily children) worldwide. There is no cure.

MLD is passed on genetically, and in the case of the Campbell family three of their five children have the disorder. The eldest daughter, Victoria Campbell, died of the disease in September.

Emily Campbell said she will fight to keep Maddie from that same fate if at all possible. Cannabis oil has shown promise. It has stopped Maddie’s seizures, and she can write and walk again when she is on it.

“There are no other treatments that has what cannabis oil did,” Emily Campbell said. “Our motive is not to get our daughter stoned. It’s to heal her. Herbs are put on earth to benefit man.”

Emily Campbell also said records show no one has ever overdosed on cannabis oil, and that mild side effects include being sleepy.

In their public statement Aaron Campbell said, “Emily and I knew that we would be risking jail or prison if we restarted Maddie’s cannabis oil treatment. Yet, as parents we knew that it was our duty to do everything possible to help our daughter be happy and comfortable with the few remaining years she has left.

"We believe that as parents we should not have to get permission from the federal government to care for our dying daughter.”

So, instead of risking their own personal freedom, they began working with Utah State Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Saratoga Springs, the sponsor of the bill, and other lawmakers to exercise states rights to change the law so they could legally and responsibly work with Maddie’s doctors to help her.

“Since making our situation public and coming out of the closet, we have received dozens and dozens of phone calls and emails from families who have been illegally importing cannabis oils, lozenges and sprays to treat loved ones with cancer, lupus, Crohn's, multiple sclerosis, lyme disease and many other diseases,” Aaron Campbell said. “In fact, we were shocked to learn of five families within our own Latter-day Saint stake who are currently importing different cannabis extracts to help with various illnesses.”

Emily Campbell said she and her husband have spoken specifically with the Utah State Attorney General’s Office, the Utah County Attorney’s Office and various police agencies on the matter.

“I just watched my other daughter die,” Emily Campbell said. “We’ll continue to do what we need to do.”

The Campbells said they are very aware of the valid prejudices that exist against marijuana and the fear that it will create more problems for families and law enforcement.

“Every single person who helped craft this bill has the same concerns,” Aaron Campbell said in his statement. “Dozens of people have worked diligently with Senator Madsen to craft a sensible, responsible bill that, if adopted, will be a model to other conservative states that are looking for a solution.”

Emily Campbell acknowledges the legislative session was too short and the bill took too long to be written. It was too late in the game for a very complex bill.

They plan to bring it back next year.

Daily Herald reporter Genelle Pugmire can contacted at, (801)344-2910, Twitter @gpugmire

A 32-year veteran of covering news in Utah County, Genelle covers Provo, Orem, Faith/Religion, including the LDS Church and general assignments.

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