ST. GEORGE – Terminally ill patients Utah now have a “right to try” medical marijuana under a new law signed by Gov. Gary Herbert.
House Bill 195, Medical Cannabis Policy, was among the 46 bills Herbert signed Wednesday.
HB 195, authored by Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem and co-sponsored by Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, allows physicians to recommend medical marijuana to terminally ill patients with an estimated six months or less to live.
Access to medical marijuana will be limited to 25 terminal patients at any one time.
Restricting how many patients can have access to medical marijuana will help curtail the risk of any one physician becoming what one lawmaker called a “candy doctor” who could hand out patient recommendations on a regular basis.
A companion bill, HB 197, also authored by Daw, will allow Utah to grow whole-plant marijuana for medical research. While this bill has yet to be signed by the governor, Fox 13 News reports the governor’s office expects Herbert to sign it as well.
House Bill 195’s becoming law dips Utah’s toe just a little more into the pond of medical marijuana legalization. The first step was made in 2014 with the approval of a law allowing approved individuals to use cannabidoil, or CBD oil, a hemp extract, to treat epilepsy.
Today, CBD oils are sold on store shelves across Utah and are the subject of a bill authored by Vickers that passed the Legislature and also awaits the governor’s signature.
Utah lawmakers have been reluctant to pass medical marijuana-related laws in the past due to worries of it eventually leading to a demand for legal recreational use. They also feared what the federal government may do as marijuana remains classified as a schedule I drug under the Drug Enforcement Administration.
This year’s legislative session proved different as small steps were made toward limited legalized use of medical marijuana for terminal patients and medical research.
Daw’s bill has been criticized as not going far enough to give access to patients who aren’t terminal. That criticism has largely come from the supporters of a ballot initiative seeking to put the question of legalized medical marijuana before the voters.
The Utah Patients Coalition, the group behind the ballot initiative, claims to have gathered over 150,000 signatures in support of the ballot initiative.
HB 195, which passed 19-3 in the Senate and 40-26 in the House, saw the following votes from Southern Utah’s legislators:
- For: Sens. Vickers and Don Ipson and Reps. Brad Last, Michael Noel and V. Lowry Snow.
- Against: Reps. Merrill Nelson and John Westwood.
- Absent or not voting: Sens. David Hinkins, Ralph Okerlund and Rep. Walt Brooks. (Hinkins had voted for the bill on second reading, prior to final vote.) House District 62 was not represented in light of Jon Stanard’s resignation.
- House Bill sponsor: Rep. Brad Daw | Senate floor sponsor: Sen. Evan Vickers
- Southern Utah Senators: Evan Vickers, Don Ipson, David Hinkins and Ralph Okerlund| Listing of all senators.
- Southern Utah Representatives: Travis Seegmiller, Bradley Last, V. Lowry Snow, Walt Brooks, John Westwood, Merrill Nelson and Michael Noel | Listing of all members of the House of Representatives.
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