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Legal…but illegal: Utah counties weigh issues surrounding medical marijuana distribution

Local (Utah/State News)

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Eight months before medical marijuana distribution becomes legal in Utah it’s causing legal headaches for counties.

While Proposition 2 and the subsequent House Bill 3001 make medical marijuana legal in Utah, it is still illegal in the eyes of the Federal Government and the Davis County Attorney has advised his health department not participate in cannabis distribution.

Connor Boyack, president of the Libertas Institute and one of the drafters of Prop 2 says marijuana providers could be arrested and prosecuted but it hasn’t happened in other states with legal medical cannabis. 

“The Feds aren’t coming in and arresting people,” Boyack told ABC4 News Tuesday. “They’re not raiding people’s homes. They’re not throwing people into jail. They’re fairly deferential to these state laws like Utah now has.”

Boyack says that the plan of distribution through county health departments which was added by the legislature is only a small part of the program and that seven private dispensaries will handle the bulk of the distribution.

“A lot of people have perceived that this can upend the entire program. ‘We’re worried because the entire medical cannabis program could fail’,” Boyack said. “That’s simply not the case. We have a whole private distribution system in place.” 

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill supported Proposition 2 and told us he wants qualified patients to have unfettered access to marijuana. He says he has “huge concerns” about turning the state’s largest county health department into a “criminal enterprise” and he’s working with legislators to take counties out of the process.

“One, it’s a violation of Federal Law. Two, it may put into risk other Federal grants. Three, as the ethical obligation as a lawyer and my team of lawyers I cannot give my client any advice that knowingly or intentionally advises him or her to violate the law,” Gill said. “As far as I’m concerned we need to remove the counties from that equation.”

Whether the county health departments participate or not, medical marijuana is set to be implemented on March 1, 2020.

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