Utah is officially the 33rd US state to legalize medical marijuana.
On Monday night, Republican Governor Gary Herbert signed the Mormon State's new Medical Cannabis Act on Monday night. Utah's new medical marijuana bill was drafted by the lawmakers as a compromise to Proposition 2, a ballot initiative passed by voters last month that would have similarly legalized medical marijuana. The compromise bill was passed handily by legislators with a 60-13 vote in the House and a 22-4 vote in the Senate.
In a tweet Monday night, Governor Herbert celebrated the passing of the new law calling saying he believes it closes "loopholes that have created significant problems" for other legal states.
Under Utah's new Medical Cannabis Act, patients with qualifying conditions will be required to receive a medial marijuana card in order to access the substance. Patients under the age of 21 will need the approval of a "compassionate care board" in order to get a cannabis prescription. The list of conditions that are eligible for treatment with medical marijuana are:
- Physical wasting
- Persistent nausea
- Crohn’s disease
The Mormon church—who were the strongest opponents of Proposition 2—have also voiced their support of the new legislation, commending the state government for their willingness to work with them in drafting the compromise bill.
"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints welcomed the opportunity to participate in a broad community effort to alleviate pain and suffering," LDS lobbyist Marty Stephens said in a statement. "Today the passage of the Utah Medical Cannabis Act once again shows how organizations with diverse interests can come together to resolve difficult issues for the benefit of those who suffer while simultaneously protecting our children. We thank the leadership of the state, the medical professionals, patients advocates, law enforcement and the many others who made this effort possible."
Not everyone is happy with the compromise bill, however. Crowds at the State House on Monday accused the legislature of disrespecting the will of the people and lawmakers like state Representative Rebecca Chavez-Houck (D-Salt Lake) stated concerns that the legislation "hyper-regulated patients." She proposed a "substitute bill" that would have been much closer to the ballot initiative passed by voters, but it was defeated.
Still, Utah's implementation of any medical marijuana program is a big step forward for this traditionally conservative state. The influence of the LDS church has long been a factor in preventing cannabis from coming to Utah and it's encouraging to see Mormons supporting the medication, even if it's in a limited fashion.