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Politics & Government

Clearer protections for Utah's medical cannabis patients could be on the horizon

medical cannabis
Patrick Morrissey
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Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley, was prompted to put forth new medical cannabis legislation after he heard about a firefighter's lawsuit.

One Utah lawmaker is set to introduce a bill that would offer clearer protections for medical cannabis patients and cardholders.

State Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley, was prompted to put forth legislation after he heard about Levi Coleman’s lawsuit.

Coleman, an Ogden firefighter, alleged he was unlawfully suspended from work for refusing to surrender his medical cannabis card.

“We have a city that has been disciplining firefighters for having a prescription… for qualifying and obtaining a medical cannabis card,” Thatcher said. “So they're not impaired at work. It's not impacting their job, they're being discriminated against because they're sick. And that is absolutely unacceptable.”

He said there are already protections in place in the Utah Medical Cannabis Act but they’re not being followed.

Thatcher said he’s pursuing legislation that would explicitly state employers could not discriminate or take adverse action against employees who have a medical marijuana prescription.

“I want to get to a place where when people aren't OK, they can get help instead of judgment,” he said. “They can get help, instead of derision.”

Desiree Hennessy, executive director for Utah Patients Coalition, a cannabis advocacy group, said she’s spoken to several firefighters about the issue.

She said they’ve been forced to choose between their health and their careers.

“The consensus is a lot of [them are] worried that their medication is going to be taken away,” Hennessy said. “[They] worry that they're breaking the law, even though they made sure that they weren't, and [are] concerned that they're being treated like a criminal for using something that's already been made legal.”

Hennessy said cannabis is like any other prescribed medicine and should be treated as such.

The intent from everybody who wrote these laws was to allow state workers, including firemen, to be able to use medical cannabis,” she said. “It's mind blowing that they're reading the law and choosing not to follow the law."

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