Lawmakers Eyeing Early December For Medical Marijuana Compromise
Utah – While all the ballots are still being counted, lawmakers, advocates, and news outlets have projected that Utah’s medical marijuana ballot initiative, known as Proposition 2, will pass. Now, Utah lawmakers are preparing for a special legislative session to modify the proposition.
The changes are part of a compromise struck last month between supporters and opponents of Proposition 2. Legislative leaders promised to move forward with the agreement regardless of how Utahns voted on Election Day.
“This collaborative effort is an important one—it’s one that we frankly need,” said Speaker of the House Greg Hughes.
The Republican representative said the language of the new bill is already drafted and balances the needs of patients with public safety concerns.
“We have found a way to deliver patient access for medical cannabis in safe way,” Rep. Hughes said.
After a new batch of election results was released Thursday afternoon, Proposition 2 had the support of 54 percent of voters, or 423,904 votes, compared to 46 percent voting against it, or 367,389 individual votes.
Statewide, more than 250,000 ballots remain uncounted, but both sides agree that it’s unlikely the outcome will change.
“We’re confident that this is in the bag,” said DJ Schanz, the director of the Utah Patients Coalition, which ran the campaign for the initiative.
Schanz said the outcome of the election sent a clear message about medical marijuana in Utah.
“Utahns are a compassionate people,” Schanz said. “They saw that these patients are not criminals, and I think that’s ultimately what it comes down to.”
Because ballot initiatives passed by voters can be changed by the legislature, Schanz said agreeing to a compromise ahead of the election was the best option.
“It’s a great win for the state of Utah to finally be having a workable and viable medical cannabis program,” he said.
After the proposition is expected to become law on Dec. 1, Hughes anticipates lawmakers could gather at the Capitol as soon as Dec. 3 for the special session. Gov. Gary Herbert must call the special session. His office told KSL that Dec. 3 is a possibility but that no official announcement has been made.
In the coming weeks, another hearing will be scheduled where the public can weigh in on the compromise legislation. Hughes is optimistic that the passage of a compromise bill will end Utah’s years-long debate over medical marijuana.
“Next year, we’re not going to have this battle that we’ve had on an annual basis now for a number of years,” Hughes said. “We’re not going to battling over this issue. Everyone is going collectively be looking to implement it.”