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Utah Lawmakers To Debate Medical Marijuana In Monday Special Session

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Utah lawmakers will convene in a special session on Monday 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.

Gov. Gary Herbert (R) 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 Friday, Utah Sen. Jim Dabakis (D) 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 you can read here:

Utah Medical Cannabis Substitute Bills by Marijuana Moment on Scribd

“The first bill takes Prop 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. House Speaker Greg Hughes (R), who convened meetings to reach a compromise, defended the action, though.

“This isn’t an effort to undermine the will of the people,” Hughes said. “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 late on Friday 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.

And several other lawmakers have filed alternative substitutes for the voter-approved ballot measure.

Mormon Church Faces Potential Lawsuit Over Medical Marijuana Opposition

This story has been updated to include comment from Dabakis and to include his legislation as well as information about the updated compromise proposal.

Photo courtesy of WeedPornDaily.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Sacramento-based senior editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

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