Utah Medical Marijuana Compromise Passes and Is Signed into Law

On Monday, the day after Utah’s medical cannabis initiative became law, state legislators supplanted it with a more tightly controlled plan for providing marijuana-based treatment. That plan is called the Utah Medical Cannabis Act, and it is designed as a replacement for voter-approved Proposition 2. The compromise bill is more restrictive than the law established by Proposition 2, which was supported by the Marijuana Policy Project and Utah advocates.

In early October, supporters and opponents of Proposition 2 reached an agreement whereby both sides de-escalated their campaign operations and agreed on a medical-marijuana-law compromise that would be enacted regardless of the outcome of the ballot initiative vote. The legislation has acted as a bridge between Prop 2 opponents, such as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Utah Patients Coalition, the group that spearheaded the initiative effort.

The compromise bill makes a number of changes to Proposition 2, including no home cultivation for patients, a smaller number of dispensaries, and a requirement that dispensaries employ pharmacists who recommend dosages. The replacement legislation crafted by lawmakers and both sides in the Prop 2 debate overhauls the medical cannabis distribution system proposed by the ballot initiative, and contains a more robust oversight and tracking plan.

Said Governor Gary Herbert:

With the passage of the Utah Medical Cannabis Act, Utah now has the best-designed medical cannabis program in the country. Working with trained medical professionals, qualified patients in Utah will be able to receive quality-controlled cannabis products from a licensed pharmacist in medical dosage form. And this will be done in a way that prevents diversion of product into a black market.

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

The bill also significantly reduces the number of private medical marijuana outlets compared with Prop 2; while the ballot initiative would permit up to 40 dispensaries, the legislation only allows seven cannabis “pharmacies.” Much of the distribution will be state-run, with cannabis orders delivered to local health departments for pick-up by patients. Another revision is on edibles: whereas Prop 2 allowed them, this bill largely does not, although it makes an exception for gelatin cubes.

Patients must also have a qualifying illness in order to qualify for marijuana treatment, such as:

  • 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)

The bill removed most autoimmune diseases from the Prop 2 list, except for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Governor Herbert said he’s committed to implementing the legislation as quickly as possible.