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Predicting Broader Legalization Push, Gov. Herbert Calls For Marijuana Reclassification

File Photo / KUER

As Utah voters mull whether to legalize medical marijuana via a ballot initiative this November, Gov. Gary Herbert is urging Congress to reschedule the drug.

“I’d like to see the federal government get out of the way,” a frustrated Herbert said on Thursday during his monthly news conference. “We ought to call upon our congressional delegation (to) take it off the Schedule I list. Let’s do the studies, let’s do the clinical trials.”

Herbert opposes Proposition 2, which would provide broader access to medical marijuana for patients suffering from diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The Republican governor reiterated that while he supports legalizing medical marijuana, he believes the proposal going before voters this fall is too broad and could lead to “unintended consequences” in the realms of public health and safety.

Thirty states and Washington, D.C. have legalized medical cannabis, and Herbert slammed Congress for not listening to “the demands of the public.”

“Are they not paying attention in Washington? Evidently not,” he said.

Herbert called on Utah’s Congressional delegation and other members of Congress to reclassify marijuana from a Schedule I drug, where it sits alongside narcotics like heroin and LSD. Rescheduling the drug, he said, would make it more widely available for research.

“It’s time to find out the truth scientifically,” Herbert said. “So that this can be prescribed by a doctor, distributed by a pharmacist, so people can know what they’re getting in their compounds.”

Whether or not Utah’s Proposition 2 passes, medical marijuana will be a top-ticket item in next year’s legislative session, Herbert said.

If the initiative does pass, he said, it will require some legislative tweaks.

“If it doesn’t pass, we’ll start new,” he said. “We’ll create, in this upcoming legislative session, a bill that everybody can support.”

Utah lawmakers have struggled to pass medical marijuana legislation since 2015. This year the Legislature passed a narrow bill legalizing cannabis only for terminally ill patients.

But things will be different in 2019, Herbert predicted.

“One way or the other, we’re going to get a law on the books that makes some sense for the people of Utah.”

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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