Utah lawmakers are getting ready to meet in a special lame-duck session on Monday to rewrite a medical marijuana law that voters passed this November. Patient advocates are saying the move is an end run around voters.
For the last year, Julie King, the mother of four from Saratoga Springs, Utah has been a vocal proponent of medical marijuana after she discovered she has an adverse reaction to opioids.
Over the summer, King was diagnosed with a subset of Sarcoma, a rare form of cancer. And she, like thousands of Utahns, signed onto a citizen-led petition to put medical cannabis onto the ballot this November. The initiative, called Proposition 2, passed with nearly 53 percent support, but not without controversy.
“Cannabis is an option for me for this very rare, very highly recurrent cancer, and I want it as an option,” she says.
In early October, a coalition of Republican lawmakers — joined by doctors, some pro-cannabis advocates and leaders in the Mormon church — announced that regardless of whether the measure passed, they would draft another version of the law shortly after the election. This version, they said, would address concerns about public safety.
“I think we are trying to strike a strong middle ground on how we deliver for patient access, medical marijuana, in a safe way and also protect the public from unintended consequences,” said Utah House Speaker Republican Greg Hughes at a press conference announcing the deal.
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Those unintended consequences include, he said, keeping the drug out of the hands of children and opening the door to recreational pot like neighboring Colorado and Nevada.
The new bill, released just before Thanksgiving, narrows the list of qualifying illnesses and tightens the distribution, sale and format of the drug, among other changes.