Gov. Herbert signs bill to replace medical marijuana ballot initiative


SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – The state legislature is taking action Monday following November’s vote on Proposition 2 to legalize medical cannabis in Utah.

Prop 2 went into effect on Saturday. Two days later, the legislature agreed on a replacement bill in a mostly party-line vote.

Before Election Day even came around, state leaders promised a solution to medical cannabis regardless of the vote on Prop 2.

 “When I heard the common ground that was being expressed, I asked to meet with people that were proponents and opponents of Proposition 2,” said Utah Speaker of the House Greg Hughes (R-Draper).

From those discussions came the Utah Medical Cannabis Act.

Under the replacement bill, the number of state-wide dispensaries is cut to seven with the possibility of going up to 10.

It also establishes a central-fill option where patients can call in an order and pick it up at their local health department.

The bill also removes auto-immune diseases as eligible conditions, under the argument that is too vague but creates a compassionate use board for patients to appeal.

Democratic Representative Rebecca Chavez-Houck encouraged her colleagues to support her substitute bill.

One that would just make minor technical changes to get Prop 2 in line with current state law.

 “I’m asking the members of this body to stay in our lane. The voters have spoken,’ said Rep. Chavez-Houck.

Her effort failed as lawmakers sided with Speaker Greg Hughes and the full replacement bill.

 “I’m proud of the process that we have gone through, that we have had more public formal hearings as well as those informal hearings,” said Hughes.

Prop 2 supporters say the fight is not over. They say the legislature is ignoring the will of the people and they will file a lawsuit.

 “The initiative process in Utah is a bit of a joke. Voters don’t really have a say and we need to start challenging the initiative process. Our Constitution gives is a right and we should have an equal balance,” said Christine Stenquist, patient advocate.

The House approved the bill on a vote of 60-13 and the bill passed 22-4 in the Senate.

Governor Herbert signed the bill into law late Monday evening and released the following statement: 

“This is a historic day. With the passage of the Utah Medical Cannabis Act, Utah now has the best-designed medical cannabis program in the country. Working with trained medical professionals, qualified patients in Utah will be able to receive quality-controlled cannabis products from a licensed pharmacist in medical dosage form. And this will be done in a way that prevents diversion of product into a black market.

“This is an example of how collaboration makes Utah the best-managed state in the nation. Proponents and opponents came together to honor the voice of Utah voters who compassionately stood up for Utah patients. They provided for access to medical cannabis, while closing loopholes that have created significant problems in other states that have legalized medical cannabis.

“I applaud Speaker Greg Hughes and Senator Evan Vickers for their leadership and sponsorship of this bill. I am also grateful to Connor Boyack from Libertas Institute, DJ Schanz from the Utah Patients Coalition, Michelle McComber from Utah Medical Association and the many other voices from across the state who came together to pass this legislation.

“My administration is committed to full implementation of this act as quickly as feasible.”

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Glen Mills

Chief Political Correspondent

For this Beetdigger and Ute it’s an honor to be doing what he loves in his home state! Glen is an award-winning journalist, who joined the ABC4 News team in June 2013. You can catch him anchoring ABC4 News at 5 and 6, Monday through Friday. He also serves as our Senior Political Correspondent, keeping you up to date on issues that impact your life at the city, state and national level. His political reports run throughout the week, and he hosts Inside Utah Politics, Sunday mornings at 8. The Utah Headliners Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has recognized Glen as the best government and military television reporter in the state. Before returning home to Utah, he spent 11 1/2 years developing his journalism skills in other states. He held various on-air and management positions at KPVI in Pocatello, Idaho, WGBA in Green Bay, Wisconsin and KKCO in Grand Junction, Colorado during that time. Read More...