Herbert calls special legislative session on medical marijuana for Monday

By Lisa Riley Roche, KSL | Updated - Nov. 30, 2018 at 5:51 p.m. | Posted - Nov. 30, 2018 at 1:28 p.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert made it official Friday, issuing a call for a special session of the Utah Legislature on Monday to replace the medical marijuana ballot initiative just passed by voters.

The agenda announced by the governor also includes mechanisms for funding the ongoing construction of the new state prison and making changes to Utah drivers' licenses to comply with federal identification requirements.

The special session is set to begin at 10 a.m. Monday. Hearings have already been held on a proposed compromise to Proposition 2, which legalized the use of medical marijuana in Utah.

Legislative leaders, who worked on the compromise with a wide range of organizations, including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Utah Medical Association, have said it will avoid unintended consequences.

The legislation that will be considered was announced before the Nov. 6 election and the governor had said he would call lawmakers into a special session to consider it regardless of whether Proposition 2 passed.

The bill that legislative leaders have pledged to get passed differs from Proposition 2 in ways affecting how Utahns would be able to qualify for, buy and use medical marijuana. For example, it decreases the number of places where marijuana may be legally sold, excludes a provision that would allow the personal growing of plants for Utahns living more than 100 miles from a dispensary, and requires patients under 21 years old to get secondary approval for their medical cannabis card from a state-appointed board.

Two other issues are on the special session agenda.

The driver's license issue dates back to 2010, when lawmakers decided to push back against what they viewed as an unfunded mandate from the federal government dealing with new U.S. Department of Homeland Security requirements.

Because the state decided then not to take further action on the Real ID Act without federal funding, Utah drivers' licenses do not have a gold star later deemed necessary by October 2020 to comply with the federal law.

If the law isn't changed to ensure Utah's driver license is in compliance by that deadline, Utahns would no longer be able to use their license to board planes or in other instances where a federally recognized ID is mandated.

Utah Driver License Division Director Christopher Caras has told lawmakers in October that every month the state waits to change the law so the stars can appear costs about $80,000.

Caras estimated the price tag then at between $2 million to $3.4 million, if lawmakers waited until the 2019 Legislature to take action and started issuing the new licenses in March or April.

Paul Edwards, the governor's deputy chief of staff, said prison funding is on the agenda so surplus funds can be spent on a portion of the project rather than using bonding.

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