Senate in Utah Approves Two Medical Marijuana Bills for Dying Patients

doctor holding medical cannabis in bottle
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SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH: The Salt Lake Tribune reported Tuesday that the Utah Senate voted 22 to 4 in favor of House Bill 195, which will permit terminally ill patients to have medical marijuana. People who are terminally ill and have a life expectancy of 6 months or less will be eligible.

The Senate also voted in favor of House Bill 197, a guideline of procedures for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and Food to follow when regulating cultivation. The vote was 22 to 3.

The House passed HB195 in February but failed to pass its compliment bill, HB197. The decision essentially permitted patients medical marijuana approval while blocking any access to marijuana.

Senate Minority Whip Karen Mayne (D-West Valley City) made a passionate plea to the panel supporting HB195. Mayne told the panel that her late husband and Kentucky state Sen. Ed Mayne died of cancer.

She believes he could have benefited from marijuana.

She said that her late husband was advised by his physician that marijuana could significantly ease his pain.  He felt as a senator he could not consider it an option due to it being illegal under federal law, she said, adding that it was time to give people relief from their suffering.

Sen. Evan Vickers (R-Cedar City) is the sponsor of HB195, otherwise called the “right to try” bill because it gives a patient expected to live only 6 months the option to try medical marijuana. Vickers says that the bill can potentially help people suffering.

HB195 defines terminally ill patients as people with an incurable illness likely to die within 6 months and would limit the number of patients one physician can prescribe medical marijuana to 25.

The House Votes to Postpone Ballot Initiative

The House passed a bill to postpone a medical marijuana ballot initiative date late Monday night. House Bill 471 was sponsored by Rep. Brad Daw (R-Orem) and successfully passed the House. Daw argues that the bill provides more time to write regulations. One initiative that could be postponed is the Utah Medical Cannabis Act, which was to be on the November ballot.

The bill will postpone the ballot initiative for 60 days minimum if passed by the Senate. The Utah Patients Coalition is responsible for the ballot initiative. Head of the coalition DJ Schanz said that postponing the initiative is an obstruction and poor policy. Schanz expects that other medical marijuana initiatives in the state will legally challenge the bill.

Daw defended the bill's timing by saying that he thought that the bill passing was only an indication that more time is needed for lawmakers to implement the will of the people and make the regulations clear to avoid confusion.

Rep. Norm Thurston (R-Provo) also argued that HB471 was merely temporary so that any anticipated problems can be addressed.

Other critics of Daw's bill included the policy and advocacy counsel for Alliance for a Better Utah, Chase Thomas. Thomas says that the legislators that voted for the bill have voted against the will of the voters by agreeing to postpone the ballot initiatives.

Thomas went on to say that he was disappointed that the House placed their own policy preferences above the voters' will because it reinforces the trust issues that constituents have with their representatives.

The vote could postpone the ballot initiative for up to a year. Rep. Patrice Arent (D-Millcreek) was in agreement with Thomas, acknowledging how difficult getting an initiative on the ballot already is without obstacles from the lawmakers to contend with. Daw says that the intent of his bill is not meant to interfere with the voters' will but provide enough time to balance the budget and get lawmakers organized.