2016 Session: Both medical marijuana bills fail In Utah Legislature

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After weeks of debate, opposition from by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and publicity that made national news, the medical marijuana efforts in Utah failed.

During the 2016 Utah Legislative session, SB73 and SB89 were viewed more times on the legislative website than any other resolutions. Both bills proposed legislation for the use of medical cannabis products to treat patients with chronic pain. Despite interest in the bills, both failed to pass during the 2016 session which ended Thursday, March 2.

Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Saratoga Springs, a BYU alum, sponsored SB73. The bill allowed for whole-plant use of edible marijuana in patient treatment and made it through the Senate to the House Health and Human Services Committee where it failed after its second reading. Madsen also introduced a medical marijuana resolution last legislative session. The 2015 resolution died in the Senate.

Madsen has cited his own struggle with chronic back pain and overdose on painkillers in his push for the law. He said this is his final session, and he does not know of another Utah lawmaker who will introduce his bill next year, the Associated Press reported.

Rick Bowmer
Sen. Mark Madsen, of Eagle Mountain, speaks during a committee hearing Monday, March 7, 2016, in Salt Lake City. Utah Representatives on Monday rejected a plan to legalize the use of edible marijuana products by those with chronic conditions. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints opposed Madsen’s bill. In an official statement from Feb. 5 the church “expressed concern about the unintended consequences that may accompany the legalization of medical marijuana.”

Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, and Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem, sponsored SB89. The more conservative bill sought to legalizes cannabidiol (CBD) but not tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). CBD and THC are two main components of the marijuana plant. The CBD component of marijuana does not provide a psychoactive high that THC does. SB89 proposed making a product that would feature a 10:1 ratio of CBD strain to THC within the product, so the medical product would not provide a high.

SB89 passed through both the Senate and House committees but failed on the house floor where some cited money issues as a reason for its failure.

Daw said there is not enough money in the budget for the proposal this year. He says he plans to introduce the proposal again next year.

After the failure of SB73, SB89 absorbed part of the wording from Madsen’s bill. Connor Boyack of the Libertas Institute said on social media that the inclusion of language from SB73 is a reason for SB89’s failure and why the Utah Medical Association withdrew its support.

Boyack stated in a Facebook post, “The bill’s two chief supporters were corporations that stood to financially benefit from its passage. When we pointed this out to lawmakers, they became very troubled that SB89 was a “vendor bill” establishing bad policy at the behest of those looking to profit.”

With the failure of both medical marijuana bills, supporters are discussing a ballot initiative. The ballot initiative, supported by the Libertas Institute, would take the language from SB73, before its amendments and language changes, and put it up to a vote.

Utah currently allows the extract to be used by only those with severe epilepsy, as long as they obtain it outside of the state.

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