Medical marijuana compromise in Utah easily passes and is signed into law by governor

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Utah’s medical marijuana compromise breezed through the state legislature on Monday, making key changes to Proposition 2, which was passed by voters less than a month ago.

Governor Gary Herbert signed the nearly-200-page bill into law just after 8 p.m. on Monday.

"Utah now has the best-designed medical cannabis program in the country," Herbert said of the bill's passage.

“This is not an easy issue,“ said Greg Hughes, Speaker of the Utah House and sponsor of the compromise that puts the state in charge of overseeing cultivation, manufacturing, processing and distribution of medical cannabis products.

Hughes brokered discussions between a top lobbyist for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and two Prop 2 supporters to reach the deal, in which he said the once-opposed parties found “common ground.”

The measure requires patients to get a medical marijuana card, and not just for any ailment. This is a list of some of the illnesses that “qualify” for marijuana treatment:

  • HIV
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Cancer
  • Physical wasting
  • Persistent nausea
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Epilepsy
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

“We don’t need to hyper-regulate patients,” said Rebecca Chavez-Houck (D-Salt Lake), who proposed a “substitute bill” to keep Prop 2 largely intact.

It failed, with lawmakers expressing concern the proposition could lead to relaxing recreational use.

The compromise requires people who want cannabis treatment to get a medical marijuana card. They would have to be 21 or older, with a “compassionate care board” deciding on exceptions for people who are younger.

“The people do not want recreational marijuana,” said Rep. Lee Perry (R-Box Elder County). “They want medical marijuana.”

The compromise passed in the House 60-13, and 22-4 in the Senate. With those margins, the compromise will become law as soon as the governor signs.

The votes by lawmakers on Monday were met by outbursts from those in the gallery at the state Capitol, including a shout of "f--- you" and accusations that the legislature was not respecting the will of the people.

Herbert said the compromise was "an example of how collaboration makes Utah the best-managed state in to nation," in a tweet Monday night.

"Proponents and opponents came together to honor the voice of Utah voters who compassionately stood up for Utah patients," Herbert said. "The provided for access to medical cannabis, while closing loopholes that have created significant problems in other states that have legalized medical cannabis."

The LDS Church released the following statement, attributed to its chief lobbyist Marty Stephens:

"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints welcomed the opportunity to participate in a broad community effort to alleviate pain and suffering. 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," the statement reads.

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