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Gov. Herbert Comes Out Against Medical Marijuana Initiative

File Photo / KUER

Gov. Gary Herbert opposes a proposed ballot initiative to more broadly legalize medical cannabis in Utah and worries it would “potentially open the door to recreational use.”

Last week the governor signed into law a narrow legalization of medical marijuana that will allow terminally ill patients to try the drug on a recommendation from their physician. A companion bill will allow the state Department of Agriculture and Food to cultivate and distribute the drug.

Herbert argued that the new laws are an “important first step.”

“We need to be cautious as we test and introduce cannabis into our formulary,” the governor said. “I believe the consequences of this initiative, even if they are unintended, will do more harm than good.”

But advocates say the new laws are too narrow. A group called the Utah Patients Coalition is gathering signatures to put a broader legalization on the ballot this November.

Called the “Medical Cannabis Initiative,” the ballot measure would extend the use of medical marijuana to people suffering from chronic diseases and pain.

Campaign director DJ Schanz said the governor’s statement is “another example of what Utahns have grown tired of: politicians standing between patients and their physicians.”

“Neither the Legislature nor the governor should undermine the clear will of voters as demonstrated in over a dozen public polls,” Schanz said.

The most recent poll, released earlier this week from Utah Policy, shows 77 percent of Utahns support legalizing medical marijuana.

The Utah Legislature has taken up medical marijuana proposals since 2015 but failed to pass any measure to legalize the drug until this year.

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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