Utah Governor Gary Herbert positioned himself against a new ballot initiative to legalize cannabis. This is unfortunate in that it would be largely beneficial to many of its states medical patients who seek legal access. Herbert cited that the initiative had not been detailed enough regarding the regulation of cannabis and would therefore allow recreational use to become more predominant.
However, Herbert believes that Utah lawmakers were correct in passing HB195 and HB197 which allow doctors to recommend cannabis strictly to anyone with a terminal illness. The ballot initiative opposed by the Governor would give broader coverage of protection to those in need of cannabis but do not fit the criteria under state law. Under the current design of cannabis regulation in Utah the state would contract with growers and essentially control the dispensing of the product via rules outlined by the Department of Agriculture & Food.
At this point the initiative has enough signatures to be entitled onto the November 6th election. This initiative would allow for private growing and dispensing of cannabis, similar to the regulations set forth by most of the 29 other states that have medicinal and/or recreational programs in effect. Despite his opposition, Herbert has stated that he had worked with lawmakers for many years to bring some form of cannabis reform to the table and even signed the initial bill while wanting further studies to continue. “I support efforts to allow medical researchers to better understand the medical properties of cannabis,” he said. “That, in turn, will allow physicians and pharmacists to prescribe and dispense cannabis as a controlled substance in accordance to the highest standards of medical science,” said Herbert.
HB197 is the bill that was proposed to set up Utah’s process for overseeing the regulation of cannabis growing and dispensing. It died with the first vote on the House floor before eventually passing. Legislators initially wanted anyone with a terminal illness to qualify for protection to consume cannabis which was then scaled down to those with only six months or less to live. Physicians who do end up making recommendations for cannabis would not be reprimanded if the patient were to live longer than six months. Many groups that are in favor of the new ballot initiative support the new measures and feel that Governor Herbert’s position shows that politicians are still standing in the way of cannabis reform, patients, physicians, and true progress.
By Tracy Jerome Chisley (@PoeticPanther)
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