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SALT LAKE CITY — The Legislature on Wednesday approved a bill allowing medical marijuana research in Utah.
HB130 was approved in the House after lawmakers concurred to amendments made earlier in the Senate. The bill previously passed in the House 70-2 and in the Senate 23-1.
It now goes to Gov. Gary Herbert for his consideration.
In addition to allowing researchers to study cannabis for medical use without federal approval, the bill would create a board to consider recommendations for future medical marijuana policy.
Rep. Susan Duckworth, D-Magna, teared up on the House floor Monday before casting her supporting vote for the bill, saying it was one step closer to giving "relief" to people suffering from chronic pain.
"I know this is going to be a slow and very arduous process to be able to put in place an opportunity for those that have cancer and chronic pain to be able to use medical marijuana to help them gain some quality of life again," Duckworth said.
Multiple attempts to legalize medical marijuana in Utah have failed in past years.
Supporters of the bill say HB130 allows an appropriate first step to begin considering medical uses of marijuana. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem, has said he believes states that have legalized marijuana have "gone about it backward."
In a Senate committee last month, Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, though supportive of medical marijuana, voted against the bill, saying plenty of research has already been conducted into medical marijuana.
"This is kind of a hoax bill. It's kind of a Trojan horse," Dabakis said. "It gives false hope to sufferers that somehow in Utah we're actually doing something when this is not providing that. This is to placate people that are suffering right now, tapping them on the head and saying, 'Don't you worry. We're doing research. And in 2018 or 2020 or 2050 or 2090 we're going to have results for you."
Supporters of the bill have said there are too many unknowns about medical marijuana use.
Some legislators have also expressed concern that medical marijuana researchers could be prosecuted under federal law.
It's not yet known how President Donald Trump's administration will address the drug, which is still an illegal substance under federal law.