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New Marijuana Laws in Utah Won’t Stop Ballot Initiative

March 26, 2018
(4kodiak/iStock)
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — It will be legal next year in Utah for approved farmers to grow medical marijuana for researchers and dying patients under one of several new legislative measures signed by Gov. Gary Herbert this month.

The state will also monitor the safety of marijuana extract oils being sold in stores as part of a package of legislation that Rep. Brad Daw, the Republican who sponsored four of the five measures, said Monday moves the state forward at the right pace.

Advocates of broader marijuana legislation disagree.

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They say they plan to get an initiative on the ballot in November that would allow voters to approve a state-regulated marijuana growing and dispensing operation to allow people with certain medical conditions to get a card and use the drug in edible forms like candy, in topical forms like lotions or balms, as an oil or in electronic cigarettes— but not for smoking.

Christine Stenquist, president of a group called Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education, said she applauds the move to regulate the sale of the oil extract that is used by people with severe epilepsy, but that most of the legislation is hollow.

“It isn’t actually moving the ball forward, it’s delaying the conversation,” Stenquist said. “It’s smoke and mirrors.”

She said the group already has 117,000 verified signatures for the ballot initiative— more than the 113,000 needed by the April 15 deadline.

Under one of the new laws, farmers vetted by the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food will be allowed starting next year to grow marijuana that would be converted into forms such as pills, gel caps and oils, Daw said.

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It can be used for research or for medical use by dying patients who, under another new law billed as the “right to try” legislation, can get medical marijuana with a doctor’s note saying they have six months or less to live.

Daw is cautious about approving any use of full-strength marijuana, which he worries is addictive, but he said the risk is low in this case. “What worse thing is going to happen to them?” he said.

The benefit is two-fold, he said: It may help ease their pain while helping the state gather information about how best to use medical marijuana.

Stenquist detests what she considers a ridiculous law, which she dubs the “right to try if you promise to die” measure.

Another measure will allow for the growth and sale of industrial hemp by state-licensed companies. That movement got a big boost Monday from U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said he’ll introduce legislation to legalize hemp as an agricultural commodity and have it removed from the list of controlled substances.

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The state will also set up a registration system that will require manufacturers of an oil called cannabidiol or CBD, a derivative of cannabis, to be registered to legally sell in Utah stores, said Jack Wilbur, spokesman for the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food. The goal is to ensure no harmful substances reach consumers.

The CBD oil has a chemical that may fight seizures and is designed not to produce a high.

The state passed a law in 2014 that allowed parents of children with severe epilepsy to use the oils to provide to their children. In the beginning, most parents traveled to Colorado to get the oil. But now an unknown number of stores, including smoke shops and health food stores, are selling the oils, Stenquist said.

A final measure provides funding for one staffer at state board that reviews research on CBD, and allows the board to review research from around the world.

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“I think we moved the ball down the field,” Daw said about the measures. “A lot of people tell me I moved too far. A lot of people tell me I’m not going far enough. I say, OK, I’ve probably hit the sweet spot.”

Daw said the ballot initiative would make the dispensing and use of marijuana far too wide open.

Stenquist counters that Utah’s slow approach is depriving people with chronic illnesses the chance at life-changing relief. The ballot initiative would create a system where people can get clean, tested marijuana and work with their doctors to see what helps them, she said.

“Patients won’t have to go to a parking lot to get a bag,” Stenquist said.

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  • 360dunk

    Three of my four wives in Utah agree that this is a step forward, however…..why limit growing cannabis for ‘dying patients’? Shouldn’t LIVING people (who try to avoid synthetic opioids to manage their pain) be allowed to spark up a doobie?

  • David Manevich

    Just keep fighting… They did the same thing to us in ohio in 2016. We were working on a ballet initiative and were on our way to getting way more than the required signatures and the state stepped up and gave us hb 523 medical marijuana law, so the org dropped the campaign. That was end of may 2016. Now jump forward to present day.
    There is still no access.
    Its supposed to open dispensaries on sept 8, 2018.
    My guess is its not going to happen.
    They just awarded licenses to either the 15 bigger grow ops and thats it as far as i know so far
    No drs have yet been certified i i just saw an advertisement for classes for drs in the next few months
    Well since we all know it takes four to five months to properly grow an mj plant.
    Then theres drying time, and curing
    Not to mention testing, then manufacturing since ohios law says no smoking you cant just take bud from grower to test lab to dispensary its just not possible to have everything ready by sept 8, 2018…

    Moral of the story. KEEP FIGHTING VOTER INITIATIVE IS THE BEST WAY TO GET THE LAW ACTUALLY CHANGED AND WORKABLE.
    The state administration will only try to block you with thier versions
    I hope this helps to shed light on these politicians that say they are doing the will of the ppl, but just putting up stall tactics to real reform…

  • BA5578

    I like Jack Wilbur’s comment “The goal is to ensure no harmful substances reach consumers”. Hopefully I never find myself in Utah needing to buy a pack of cigarettes, because I’ll be out of luck. Or for that matter, a 2- liter of soda. Thank you, politicians, for knowing what is best for me.
    I’m glad that voters in Utah have the ballot initiative, since it should be obvious to them that the sky in Colorado has NOT fallen. While it’s true that CBD is super- beneficial for many medical conditions, that list only grows when you allow THC as well.
    God speed Utah voters !!