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Utah Lawmakers’ Special Session To Hash Out Marijuana Policy


Utah lawmakers will convene in a special session Dec. 3, 2018, to discuss a medical marijuana “compromise” bill after voters approved a separate measure that faced opposition from the Mormon church, Utah Medical Association and political insiders.

Republican Gov. Gary Herbert made the announcement on Friday.

The compromise bill includes several changes, such as limiting who can register to become a caregiver and reducing employment protections so that they only apply to state and local government workers. A series of smaller changes were also inserted into the legislation.

Not Everyone is on Board

A lawyer representing a group of patients and advocates has floated a potential lawsuit against the church for allegedly undermining the will of voters and forcing the hands of lawmakers to agree to a compromise.

And on Nov. 30, 2018, Democratic state Sen. Jim Dabakis announced that he would be introducing two substitute bills at the special session. One would make “legislative staff-suggested changes” to the voter-approved measure and another that would effectively decriminalize cannabis for patients who obtain medical marijuana cards.

“Just days after an election, after the people have spoken, to allow a clique of unelected, self-appointed, unrepresentative lobbyists who sat in a backroom somewhere and ‘compromised’ among themselves to extinguishing the will of the voters, shows a paternalistic contempt for Utah voters,” Dabakis said in a press release. “For the Legislature and Governor to outsource this important responsibility, rubber stamping the narrow view of this group makes Utah appear to have more in common with a banana republic than the proud republic we purport to be.”

Dabakis shared the text of the draft legislation with Marijuana Moment, which published it on its Scribd page.

“The first bill takes Prop[osition]2 and makes technical changes needed to better implement Prop 2. There are no changes of substance to what the people passed,” Dabakis told Marijuana Moment in an email. “The second bill calls for a medical card but cuts out the bureaucracy and millions of dollars in expenses. It simply decriminalizes cannabis for anyone who has a medical card allowing them to use current distribution schemes.”

It’s not clear what kind of support the compromise bill has in the Utah Legislature at this point, Though Republican House Speaker Greg Hughes, who convened meetings to reach a compromise, defended the action.

“This isn’t an effort to undermine the will of the people,” Hughes said to Fox 13 News. “This is actually an initiative process where what the initiative was seeing to do was agreed upon, and we have been working ever since to make sure it has that structurally, even more importantly, political strength to carry the day and actually provide patient access.”

Meanwhile, legislative leaders on Nov. 30, 2018, released an updated version of their proposed compromise bill, which unlike prior drafts would allow nurse practitioners, physician assistants and some social workers to recommend medical cannabis.

This article has been republished from Marijuana Moment under a content syndication agreement. Read the original article here.