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Utah Scraps Cannabis Ballot Initiative, Plans To Legalize Medical Marijuana Through Legislature Instead

Medical marijuana is making its way to Utah in the near future after a cannabis ballot initiative forced the home state of the Mormon faith to finally overhaul its outdated drug laws.

Governor Gary Herbert (R) has made a deal with Republican lawmakers, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and cannabis advocates to reform Utah's marijuana laws during a special government session to be held after the 2018 midterm elections.

This compromise was reached after a long and tense battle between cannabis advocates and opponents from the LDS Church over Proposition 2 - a ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana statewide. That initiative will still be on the November ballot, but regardless of whether it passes or fails, the state will provide access to medical cannabis.  

Influential LDS church member Jack Gerard says he is "thrilled" to be involved with the effort to "alleviate human pain and suffering" under the new compromise legislation. And Senate President Wayne Niederhauser says he is committed to making medical marijuana reform a priority for his administration. 

"I will do everything in my power to ensure this compromise passes in the special session," Niederhauser told the Associated Press. 

So does that mean Utah's 2018 medical marijuana ballot initiative is essentially a dead duck? Not exactly. The measure's proposed rules and regulations will undoubtedly provide a starting point for lawmakers tasked with reforming the state's cannabis laws. So to get an idea of what the new laws might look like, here's an overview of Utah's Proposition 2. 

The New Law

Who, What, Where?

Under Proposition 2, doctors would be able to recommend medical marijuana to patients with the following conditions:

  • Alzheimer's disease
  • ALS
  • Cancer
  • Wasting Syndrome
  • Chronic nausea, unless related to pregnancy
  • Crohn's disease/ulcerative colitis
  • Epilepsy
  • MS
  • PTSD
  • Autism

Additionally, medical marijuana would be made available to people in hospice care as well as terminally ill patients with a life expectancy of less than six months. The state will also establish a compassionate use board which will review individual requests for access to medical marijuana for conditions that are not listed in the legislation.

Eligible patients would be allowed to purchase up to 2 ounces of cannabis in a 14-day period, but they wouldn't be allowed to smoke it. They also can't use any devices for smoking cannabis, so getting caught with a pipe or rolling papers would be a huge problem for patients. And if they don't like vaping, they could buy a very limited selection of edibles: namely, a "cube-shaped chewable gummy or dissolvable lozenge." Other cannabis concentrate products will be available, but only to patients for which edibles and flower have proven to be ineffective.

But patients who enjoy therapeutic gardening wouldn't be allowed to plant their medicine in their yard. Under Proposition 2, growing cannabis at home would remain prohibited.

By far the strangest part of the ballot initiative is that patients who have been convicted of a drug distribution felony would not be allowed to access medical marijuana. The idea here is probably that an offender can't be trusted because they've already tried to sell illicit drugs on the street. But if that's the case, then it'd make more sense to make them use cannabis as opposed to opioids, which are far more dangerous and profitable than marijuana. That'd basically be like taking away a serial killer's knife and giving them a rocket launcher instead. So hopefully this aspect of Proposition 2 gets dropped when the state legislature meets to hash out medical cannabis legalization. 

h/t The Associated Press


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