Utah: Lawmakers Replace Voter-Initiated Medical Marijuana Law

Marijuana medicine[Update: Governor Gary Herbert has signed the replacement measure into law.]

Lawmakers voted in a special legislative session on Monday to replace the state’s voter-initiated medical cannabis access program. The former law, Proposition 2, was approved by 53 percent of voters on November 6.

NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri criticized lawmakers’ decision. “Lawmakers should have respected the will of the voters and should have moved expeditiously to honor the spirit of the law — not undermine it,” he said. “Patients deserve the right to cultivate their own medicine, doctors should be empowered to decide what is best for their patients, and there should be no undue hurdles to licensing an adequate number of dispensaries to provide cannabis related products in a retail environment.”

Legislators announced in October their intent to rewrite the legislation, prior to its passage, after meetings with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — who opposed the bill — and other groups, including some backers of the original bill. However, other proponents of Proposition 2, including the group TRUCE Utah (Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education), have announced their intent to file a lawsuit in response to lawmakers’ decision to amend the law.

The replacement legislation, House Bill 3001, significantly differs from the language that was approved by the voters. It eliminates patients’ option to home cultivate cannabis, it largely discourages the dispensing of edible cannabis products, it narrows the list of qualifying conditions, and it significantly reduces the total number of permissible state-licensed dispensaries, among other changes.

Members of the House voted 60 to 13 in favor of the new language. Members of the Senate voted 22 to 4. The bill required two-thirds support from both chambers in order to become law.

The vote to rewrite the voter-initiated law broke down largely along party lines, with Republican lawmakers deciding in favor of the change and Democratic members largely voting ‘present.’ An alternative measure backed by members of the Democratic Caucus that sought to make only minor administrative changes to the initiative was defeated.

Once signed by Republican Gov. Gary Herbert, the new law takes immediate effect.