SALT LAKE CITY — A new compromise between supporters and detractors of Proposition 2, arrived at after weeks of fervent negotiations over significantly different views, is detailed at length in a drafted bill which Utah's legislative leaders have promised to get passed when a special lawmaking session convenes shortly after Election Day.
The 126-page bill and its technical language was necessary in order to make sure the different sides of recent private talks were in fact on the same page in their compromise, Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes said this week.
"If you agree on concepts, but you've not put some plain language together, you're not entirely sure you're agreeing on the same things, and we found that when we put things to language … there was different expectations for what that would mean, and it did inspire more discussion and deliberation," said Hughes, R-Draper.
An unchanged Proposition 2 remains up for a vote by Utahns on Election Day. But on Thursday, Herbert announced he would call a legislative session sometime in November after the vote in an effort to get the compromise bill passed regardless of whether Utahns pass or reject Proposition 2.
Key players on both sides promised to de-escalate their campaigning for or against the initiative's passage.
Slight adjustments are made in the compromise bill over the list of "qualifying conditions" which would permit someone to have a medical cannabis card, though several conditions remain unchanged.
The compromise measure drops the phrase permitting those with "an autoimmune disorder" to qualify for a card. But it adds that anyone receiving hospice care is qualified, expanding on current Utah law regarding terminally ill patients.
A recent Utah Policy poll showed 64 percent of respondents favored medical marijuana when asked whether they "support or oppose legalizing doctor-recommended use of marijuana for certain diseases and pain relief." Thirty-three percent of respondents said they were against it.
The survey, published Sept. 4, also found:
- 43 percent of all respondents were strongly in support of medical marijuana legalization
- 23 percent were strongly against medical marijuana legalization
- 2 percent said they didn't know their position
The poll was conducted with 809 likely Utah voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percent.
For more information on the poll, visit UtahPolicy.com
Proposition 2 allows patients with a gastrointestinal disorder "similar" to ulcerative colitis or Chrohn's disease to get a card, but the compromise bill doesn't accommodate related illnesses.
Proposition 2 says a patient with "chronic or debilitating pain" can get a card if they are determined to be at risk of "becoming chemically dependent on, or overdosing on" opioids. The compromise uses different language, specifying that a person must be experiencing "pain lasting longer than two weeks that is not substantially responsive to conventional medications other than opioids or opiates or physical interventions."
Unlike Proposition 2, the compromise bill stipulated that a doctor who wishes to recommend cannabis must complete four hours of "continuing education" in that area of expertise before getting licensed, and do the same every two years to renew it.
The initiative would prohibit local municipalities from enacting zoning that keeps medical marijuana dispensaries away on the simple basis that they are dispensaries. The compromise bill adjusts that to say a local government cannot prohibit a medical marijuana pharmacy in areas allowing "a business that sells alcohol" or a "tobacco specialty business."
The compromise bill keeps a modified version of a controversial "affirmative defense" provision in Proposition 2 which allows a person to fight marijuana possession charges before a certain date on the basis they would have been eligible for a card despite not having one.
But the compromise bill says that in those cases, the marijuana must be in "medicinal dosage form," and that the individual must have "a pre-existing relationship with a qualified medical provider" who indicated they could benefit from marijuana use.
Just like Proposition 2, the compromise bill prohibits state law enforcement from lending their efforts to enforcing federal laws on marijuana when there is no reason to believe state laws related to the substance are being broken.
In contrast to Proposition 2, the compromise bill makes explicit that the unauthorized giving or selling of a marijuana product to another person is a class B misdemeanor, and a class A misdemeanor if the recipient is a minor.
Each facility that sells medical marijuana would be required to employ a licensed pharmacist, a change from Proposition 2, and changes their name from dispensaries to pharmacies.
Proposition 2 would allow at least one dispensary in every county, and more in Utah's most populous counties. But the compromise bill limits the number of medical marijuana pharmacies to five, unless the state determines that is not sufficient to meet the demand.
A state-operated central fill pharmacy would also fill orders that a patient could have picked up at one of the state's 13 local health departments.
Under Proposition 2, a patient may personally grow up to six of their own marijuana plants if they live more than 100 miles from the nearest dispensary, but that is not allowed in the compromise bill.
The compromise bill says medical marijuana pharmacists also must undergo "continuing education" in order to stay licensed.
In contrast to Proposition 2, the compromise bill does not allow patients to purchase unprocessed marijuana flower unless it is broken up into a blister pack, with each blister containing no more than 1 gram.
Aside from that, the only authorized forms of medical marijuana under the compromise bill would be a capsule, tablet, concentrated oil, liquid suspension, topical substance, sublingual pill, chewable or dissolvable pill, skin patch, or in limited circumstances, a resin or wax.
The compromise bill does not allow patients to use edible marijuana products, whereas there is no such restriction in Proposition 2.