ST. GEORGE — A compromise has been reached between supporters and opponents of Proposition 2 concerning medical marijuana legalization in Utah in the form of proposed legislation, Gov. Gary Herbert announced Thursday.
During a press conference held at Capitol Hill in Salt Lake City, Herbert said he will call for a special legislative session following the midterm election to address and presumably pass the proposed compromise bill regardless of whether Proposition 2 passes or fails.
“Virtually all stakeholders have some things in common,” Herbert said. “One is they want to find a way to help those with pain and suffering, and to the extent to that medical marijuana can help alleviate that pain and suffering that should be made available.”
Those stakeholders – those who are both for and against Proposition 2 – also want to mitigate any unintended consequences Proposition 2 could create if passed
If Proposition 2 passes, the compromise bill would revise parts of the ballot measure that have caused opponents concern. If it fails, the bill still provides a path for state-legalized medical marijuana.
“Either way, the public at large is going to win at this,” Herbert said.
The compromise bill is the product of several weeks of closed-door meetings between state officials and those who oppose and support the ballot measure. Opponents are the Utah Medical Association, Utah Chiefs of Police Association, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and several other groups and individuals.
The church approves
While representatives of the LDS church have stated the church does not oppose the use of medical marijuana, it objected to how Proposition 2 proposed to go about it. Last month the church called on the governor to call a special session of the Legislature to address the medical marijuana issue.
“While the Church remains opposed to Proposition 2, and encourages others to vote against it, we now join with a broader community in support of this compromise,” Elder Jack N. Gerard, of the LDS church, said.
The agreement in such a conservative state underscores the nation’s changing attitude toward marijuana. Medical use now is legal in more than 30 states and is on the November ballot in Missouri. So-called recreational marijuana goes before voters in Michigan and North Dakota. If passed, it will be a first for a Midwestern state.
The church feared broad use of pot but Gerard said church officials are “thrilled” to be a part of the effort to “alleviate human pain and suffering” with medical marijuana.
The deal has the key backing of the church and leaders of the Republican-dominated Legislature, who said the regulations in the hard-won agreement have their seal of approval.
Elements of the compromise
Unlike the ballot initiative, the compromise won’t allow people to grow their own marijuana if they live too far from a dispensary. It also doesn’t allow certain types of edible marijuana that could appeal to children, like cookies and brownies.
The list of qualifying medical conditions allowing a patient to access medical marijuana has been revised, as have elements surrounding how long medical marijuana cards remain valid.
Only medical doctors and doctors of osteopathic medicine can provide a patient with a dosage recommendation.
The state will allow the establishment of five privately-owned medical marijuana pharmacy-like facilities. The state will also create a single state-run dispensary that will fill patient medications and ship them to their area health departments for pick up.
Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, said this type of system is based on how some other states handle dispensing medical marijuana to patients.
Along with other elements of the proposed law, Vickers said the believes the bill is “a really good deal” and that it “could be a model for the rest of the country.”
The Libertas Institute, a libertarian think tank that has been heavily involved in crafting Proposition 2 and the compromise bill, provides an overall breakdown of the proposed legislation on its website.
What Proposition 2 supporters say about the compromise
DJ Shanz, the executive director of the Utah Patients Coalition, the group that spearheaded Proposition 2, called the bill a “workable medical cannabis compromise” that will help bring medical cannabis to patients sooner rather than later.
“There will be medical cannabis here in our day in Utah,” Shanz said.
Among Proposition 2’s ardent supporters who also helped shape the compromise bill is Libertas Institute president Conner Boyack. He said one of the reasons for the compromise was to help keep state lawmakers from proportionally hijacking Proposition 2 with legislative revisions afterward.
“We don’t want this battle to be won only to lose the war, and frankly we don’t want a war,
Boyack said, noting how heated the debate over medical marijuana legalization has been in the past.
“This agreement is a truce,” he said.
Supporters of medical marijuana have said Proposition 2 was the result of Utah lawmakers dragging their feet over the matter.
While some medical marijuana legislation has been passed in recent years, its scope has been limited. This led to frustrated medical marijuana advocates creating the ballot initiative.
Though he believes the Legislature would have eventually passed medical marijuana laws granting more patient accessibility, Vickers said Proposition 2 definitely sped up the process.
“Let’s face it, it was a driving factor in getting us to this point,” Vickers said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story
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