December 3, 2018

Utah Lawmakers Advance Medical Marijuana Compromise

This story is developing and will be updated.

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Utah House of Representatives has passed a compromise plan to legalize medical marijuana despite concerns that the regulations make it too hard for patients to access the drug.

The Monday vote came after about two hours of debate. It now goes to the Utah Senate, where it is also expected to pass.

Democratic critics of the compromise proposed keeping the language approved by the voters, but Republicans in the House voted down the idea.

The changes include blocking marijuana edibles like cookies, preventing people from growing their own marijuana and narrowing the list of eligible medical conditions.

The plan was sponsored by Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes after a negotiation process that included the influential Mormon Church.

Hughes says the compromise improves upon the language approved by keeping marijuana from being used recreationally or by children.

Democratic critics of the compromise proposed keeping the language approved by the voters, but Republicans in the Utah House voted down the idea.

Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck asked fellow lawmakers on Monday to “stay in our lane” and keep the original proposal rather than make changes under the agreement between some medical marijuana advocates and state lawmakers. Her proposal lost in a lopsided Monday vote in the Republican-dominated Utah House of Representatives.

Republican outgoing House Speaker Greg Hughes argued the compromise is an improvement on the original plan, and came after a healthy negotiation process.

Many advocates, though, say the compromise creates nearly insurmountable obstacles for patients seeking access to the drug and are vowing to sue.

Supporters Threaten to Sue

As the Legislature went into session Monday morning with a nearly full gallery of spectators, medical-marijuana advocate Christine Stenquist told reporters that opponents of the plan will sue if it passes as expected.

She says the compromise creates overwhelming obstacles for patients to get access to the drug.

Supporters of the compromise, including the influential Mormon church, say it creates a “safer” medical marijuana program and blocks any possibility of broader legalization.

Medical-marijuana advocates who backed it say lawmakers can change the language of the law passed by voters at any time, so it was better to be at the negotiating table.

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