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Lawmakers Support ‘Right To Try’ Medical Marijuana Bills, But Advocates Say They’re Too Weak


The issue of medical marijuana is lighting up the Utah Legislature, despite a competing ballot initiative making its way to voters this fall.

Two bills received support Wednesday that would loosen regulations on the drug.

The legislation would extend a “right to try” medical cannabis to patients diagnosed with terminal illnesses. Republican sponsor Rep. Brad Daw said smoking wouldn’t be allowed — only pills, oils and other topicals.

“Medicinal form means it’s a predictable dose from a source that’s safe and trusted,” Daw told the House Health and Human Services Committee. “It’s consistent over time.”

The bills would also require the state to grow the marijuana plants through the Department of Agriculture. Some lawmakers expressed concern about prosecution from the federal government and Attorney General Jeff Sessions if that became the case. Daw said it’s a “grey area.”

But both proposals ended up clearing their first hurdle through the committee.

Meanwhile, a group of patients and advocates is pushing a ballot initiative that would also legalize medical marijuana — but much more broadly than Daw’s bills. Organizer Christine Stenquist called his efforts too little, too late. 

“The people have spoken,” Stenquist said of the initiative’s growing support. The Utah Patients’ Coalition has already gathered 102,000 signatures, placing them well on track to meet the required 113,000 by mid-April.

Utah lawmakers have taken up cannabis legislation for the past several years, without success.

“We’ve given legislators plenty of opportunity to move on this,” Stenquist said. “This [legislation] isn’t moving. This is weak.”

Nicole Nixon holds a Communication degree from the University of Utah. She has worked on and off in the KUER Newsroom since 2013, when she first joined KUER as an intern. Nicole is a Utah native. Besides public radio, she is also passionate about beautiful landscapes and breakfast burritos.
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