Utah Legislature Passes Restrictive Medical Marijuana Bill After Voters Passed Prop 2 On Election Day

Controversial 'compromise' bill for medicinal cannabis headed for governor's signature, angering voters.

Medical Marijuana
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Controversial 'compromise' bill for medicinal cannabis headed for governor's signature, angering voters.

Last month voters in Utah passed Prop 2, a medical marijuana ballot initiative, and it passed with 53 percent. However, today, the Utah legislature passed a far more restrictive bill than the people of the state voted in last month, and with a super majority in both the House and the Senate, nothing can stop the bill from becoming law once the governor signs it.

According to a report from The Salt Lake Tribune, the bill passed by a vote of 60-13 in the House and 22-4 to four in the Senate after a few hours of debate. The opposition argued that they did not want to pass a bill that overrode the will of the voters. Ultimately, the votes broke down along party lines.

Speaker Greg Hughes told the House Monday, “I’m proud of the process that we’ve gone through, that we’ve had more public, formal hearings as well as informal hearings than any bill we’ve been involved in.”

However, voters do not appreciate the far more restrictive bill their legislature passed as opposed to what they voted for. Essentially, the new law overhauls the medical cannabis distribution system that Proposition 2 outlined. Opponents of Prop 2 included The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Utah Patients Coalition while the supporters included Prop. 2’s sponsors, the Utah Patients Coalition and Libertas Institute. According to the legislature, the bill is a compromise that worked to bring opponents and proponents together to create something workable for the state.

During the debate, Representative Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake City said, “I am asking the members of this body to stay in our lane. The voters have spoken.”

However, now Governor Gary Hebert must sign it, and he said that he will, according to a Fox 13 Salt Lake City report. Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education said it plans to file a lawsuit over the new piece of legislation and the LDS Church’s involvement in negotiations for the new bill.

Many people who voted for Prop 2 feel that the revision creates too much red tape for patients who need medical marijuana. The original proposition allowed for 40 private medical marijuana outlets, and the rest of the distribution will occur with state-run facilities that deliver to local health departments to distribute to patients.

The compromise brought that number down a mere seven cannabis “pharmacies.” The bill also eliminates edibles with the except of gelatin cubes. It also removed most autoimmune diseases from acceptable illnesses except for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

However, one of the most significant changes is that the bill made it more difficult for adults aged 18 to 20 to receive medicinal cannabis because they have to petition a compassionate use board while patients 21 and older can get it on their doctor’s recommendation. One seemingly positive change the overriding piece of legislation made is that nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and high-ranking social workers are on the list of people who can recommend medical marijuana to patients.

Ultimately, many Republican members of the Utah House and Senate felt they owed it to their districts, which voted no on Prop 2, to represent them. Many “yes” votes came from the Salt Lake City area, so people elected to serve other areas did not feel they overstepped by voting how their districts voted.