Politics

Utah Anticipates Legalization of Cannabis With Proposition 2, As Both Sides Agree On Compromise

A special session is on the books so lawmakers can discuss a medical cannabis bill. That was announced amid the what is being called a compromise on Prop 2 between proponents and opponents.

Negotiations between Utah legislators and Proposition 2 supporters (including the Utah Patients Coalition, Libertas Institute, Our Revolution, The Marijuana Policy Project) and major opponents (including Drug Safe Utah and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) resulted in an agreement on potential compromise legislation on October 3, 2018.

The agreement concerns legislative alterations to Proposition 2 to be addressed by the legislature after the November election. Those for and against the initiative continue to disagree on whether Proposition 2 should pass, but suggested that regardless of the Election Day results, the policies agreed to as part of a wide-ranging compromise should ultimately be passed by the Legislature in the special session.

Utah Governor Gary Herbert (R) called for the special session of the Utah Legislature after the November election to create a medical cannabis policy for Utah regardless of whether or not Proposition 2 is approved by voters. Herbert said, “Whether it passes or fails, we’re going to arrive at the same point and conclusion, which is going to be (of) benefit to the people of Utah.”

Leaders of both the House and the Senate said they believe they have the votes to pass the compromise in the special session.

The Compromise

Among the proposed compromise policies, which were written in the form of a bill (see below), are changes to Proposition 2’s provisions over how medical cannabis can be ingested, where and how it would be sold, and what is considered a qualifying condition for a medical cannabis card.

The compromise language limits the forms in which a person can use medical cannabis to a tablet, capsule, concentrated oil, liquid suspension, topical substance, skin patch, sublingual pill, chewable or dissolvable cube, or unprocessed cannabis flower broken up into a blister pack in which each blister, or pocket, does not exceed 1 gram. In limited circumstances, a cannabis resin or wax, also known as dabs, could also be used.

Each of those methods of treatment would be required to be broken up into “single dosage form” and contain “a specific and consistent content.”

Unlike with the compromise language, Proposition 2 doesn’t require unprocessed flower be sold in a blister pack. Marijuana edibles could also be sold under Proposition 2, but not under the compromise language.

The compromise text does not allow for a person to grow their own plants for personal use. Proposition 2, by contrast, permits a person to grow up to six of their own plants if they live more than 100 miles from a dispensary.

Also under the compromise, marijuana sellers would be known as pharmacies rather than dispensaries, and a licensed pharmacist would be required to work at the facility.

A single state-owned central fill pharmacy would be established and local health departments would be utilized as places where a medical marijuana order could be picked up. Five pharmacies would be permitted statewide, unless unforeseen demand arises. By contrast, Proposition 2 would allow for at least one in every county and more for the most populous counties, including up to eight in Salt Lake County.

The compromise text also makes small changes to qualifying conditions that allow a person to get a medical cannabis card, specifying that a person’s post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis must come from a psychiatrist, for example.

The compromise language keeps protections barring landlords from penalizing or removing a tenant for lawfully using medical marijuana, and keeps protections for doctors who recommend its use — provisions that had drawn ire in a recent lawsuit filed by Drug Safe Utah, a political issues committee formed to defeat Proposition 2.

The compromise text also proposes that doctors who wish to recommend cannabis, and the pharmacists who would dispense it, be required to comply with certain continuing education requirements.

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