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Medical Marijuana Still Up in the Air at the Utah Legislature

Brian Grimmett
Senator Mark Madsen (R-13) presents his medical marijuana bill. (Feb. 19th, 2016)

Medical marijuana is not dead yet. Senators have delayed a vote on a broad plan, and they say it may be too close to call at this point.

The bill’s sponsor Republican Senator Mark Madsen added several last minute amendments in an attempt to gain support from more lawmakers. The most significant change would prohibit the sale of the cannabis plant or flower, and would allow only for extracts with precise dosages.

Republican Senator Todd Weiler, who has so far been opposed to the measure, said with these changes, he would vote to advance the bill. Weiler also told his colleagues that the political landscape is shifting and he doesn’t want to see the issue go to the ballot.

“I’m very concerned if we don’t pass this bill today that this will be an initiative,” Weiler says. “It will define the election cycle in Utah this year, and I’m very concerned that a much broader bill than this could very well pass.”

Lawmakers ran out of time for discussion and postponed a vote. Medical marijuana proponent Christine Stenquist is organizing the effort for a ballot initiative if Madsen’s bill fails. She says she's feeling optimistic.

“There’s still movement and there’s a possibility,” Stenquist says. “We’re just trying to make sure that we’re watching what happens legislatively, and if they don’t listen to the will of the people, the people will speak.”

Earlier, the Senate gave preliminary approval to a more limited bill which would allow only for the prescription of cannibidiol or hemp oil. If that’s all the legislature approves this year, Stenquist says her group will pursue a ballot initiative which would be broader even than Madsen’s bill.

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