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Medical Marijuana Stalls in Final Hours of Utah Legislative Session

Andrea Smardon
/
KUER
Senator Mark Madsen, a champion of medical marijuana, is retiring from the legislature this year.

One of the most hotly contested issues in the legislature this year was medical marijuana, but lawmakers ran out of time before they could pass any legislation.

In the final days of the session, representatives held last minute meetings to try to get an understanding of a medical marijuana bill that was undergoing numerous revisions. In the late afternoon on the last day, House sponsor Brad Daw told KUER there wasn’t funding to cover the start-up costs of the program.

Republican Mark Madsen was the Senate sponsor of a competing medical marijuana proposal. He insists that Daw’s bill exists solely to kill his bill, which would have provided much broader access to the marijuana plant.

“I do think it’s curious,” Madsen says. “If they had ever been serious about actually having this bill pass, why is it the last day of the session is the first day they worry about funding?” Daw says lawmakers made so many last minute changes to his bill that they didn’t know about the funding issue.

“This was not meant to kill Madsen’s bill,” Daw says. “This was meant as a genuine attempt to make what I consider to be a reasonable policy. We very much wanted this bill to pass.”

“It’s political games for him,” says Christine Stenquist, one of the major advocates on the hill for medical marijuana. Stenquist says Daw did not consult patients when he crafted his bill. She is laying on a couch in Senator Madsen’s office with a blanket draped over her legs and sunglasses on to shield her eyes. Stenquist has a brain tumor and is suffering from a migraine. “Pain waves come. It just gets a little too high, a little too intense. No pun intended.”

Stenquist says time has run out to gather signatures for a ballot initiative on medical marijuana for this year, but they will hold on to the option for the next election.

“If we don’t have that ballot measure there, we won’t actually discuss this,” Stenquist says. “We’ll try to kick it down the road, we have to talk about this.”

Stenquist’s biggest champion Senator Madsen is retiring this year, but she’s holding out hope that lawmakers will make a good faith effort to listen to patients and pass a medical marijuana bill in the next year.

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World. Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Boston.com. Prior to that, she worked at Seattleââ
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