Lawmakers say they will pass their own medical marijuana law, no matter whether a ballot initiative is approved by voters.
Regardless of how the Utah public votes on Proposition 2 in the upcoming November election, state lawmakers will work on passing an alternative medical marijuana proposal.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert yesterday pledged to call a special legislative session to pass a “compromise” bill on medical marijuana.
Ballot initiative Proposition 2, which would allow patients with a doctor’s recommendation to legally grow, buy, and consume medical cannabis, has shown to be wildly popular in the extremely conservative state. Despite opposition from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the Utah Medical Association, a September poll showed the measure has the support of 64 percent of Utah voters.
The sense of inevitability prompted LDS church leaders and the Utah Medical Association to work behind-the-scenes with lawmakers and the Utah Patients Coalition, the main group behind the ballot measure, to craft a bill that is more conservative to increase safeguards.
This means no matter how the initiative fares, lawmakers will move forward on the new compromise medical marijuana bill. If voters approve the measure, it will be revised. If it fails, the Legislature would consider a law under the new framework.
“There’s a common ground in terms of making sure patients in need have, at least on the state level, a legal way to access medical marijuana while protecting against recreational use and not undermining public safety,” House Speaker Greg Hughes (R-Draper) told FOX 13.
Christine Stenquist, president of the patient and marijuana advocacy group TRUCE, was critical of the agreement and urged the Utah public to still vote in favor of Proposition 2.
“This is another promise that we can’t trust,” she said. “We still need to vote. That is something that will hold them to the fire.”
More Stringent Regulations
The new 126-page agreement has a shorter list of qualifying medical conditions compared to the ballot initiative. Of note, it removes chronic pain as a qualifying condition, instead allowing patients access who are diagnosed with “pain lasting longer than two weeks, under certain conditions.”
Additionally, the compromise bill would limit where qualified patients could obtain medical marijuana. Rather than dispensaries, registered patients could only get cannabis from their county health departments or at one of five “medical cannabis pharmacies.” Marijuana would be supplied in ‘medicinal dosage form” and home cultivation would not be allowed.
“Under this plan, marijuana will be distributed to patients by well-trained, physicians, and pharmacists who are qualified to do that very thing,” Herbert said on Thursday.
Mitt Romney, running for U.S. Senate in Utah, has voiced support for medical marijuana being legalized through legislative means rather than Proposition 2. His opponent, Jenny Wilson, supports Proposition 2 and has said the initiative is the result of inaction by state and federal law leaders.
In light of the agreement, the Utah Patients Coalition and the LDS Church have both agreed to deescalate their respective advertising campaign efforts.
Utah is one of four states voting on marijuana measures in November. Learn more about where cannabis is on the ballot here, or visit our news page to keep up with the latest developments in the cannabis industry.