The first ever full medical marijuana legalization bill introduced to the Utah state Senate has been passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee with a 3 to 2 vote. SB 259 will now move on to the full Senate for a vote.
Republican Sen. Mark Madsen (photo below), the chief sponsor of this legislation, admits to having used marijuana medicinally to treat back pain while vacationing in Colorado recently. After eating marijuana edibles, Madsen reported,
“I’ve had a very strong emotional knee-jerk type of reaction from a lot of folks. I think we need to push past that emotion and push past much of the propaganda that’s been promulgated for a number of years.”
“Reefer Madness’ is neither medical research nor public policy, it’s propaganda, and we can’t be basing our policy on propaganda.”
The definition of marijuana in the bill verbiage excludes the use of any method of administration that results in combustion, meaning that it would not be legal for patients to smoke marijuana. Vaporizing cannabis and concentrated oil extractions would however be permitted. Consuming marijuana edibles would also be legalized under SB 259.
If approved, Sb 259 would establish a system for regulating a restricted number of marijuana cultivators, producers and retailers. The licensing process would be regulated by the state Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing. Businesses would be required to register with the Utah Tax Commission.
Each sales transaction that takes place in a medical marijuana retail dispensary would result in $0.25 paid to the state tax commission. All cannabis products sold at dispensaries would have to be lab tested, and the cannabinoid profile must be clearly labeled on the package.
It would cost businesses $5,000 to apply for a grower or dispensary license, and only one facility would be permitted to operate for every 200,000 residents per county. This means that Salt Lake would be able to issue up to 5 licenses.
In order to register for the medical marijuana program, patients would first be required to obtain a licensed physician’s recommendation for use. Only patients suffering from one of the qualifying conditions would be eligible, and registration would cost $25.
The list of qualifying conditions that would allow a patient to apply to the medical marijuana program include:
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Also included in the list of qualifications are the following symptoms that can occur as a result of a treatment for a medical condition:
- Persistent muscle spasms (includes multiple sclerosis)
- Seizures (includes epilepsy)
- Severe nausea
- Severe pain
The use of the non-psychoactive cannabinoid, cannabidiol (CBD), in the form of oil was legalized in Utah in March 2014, when Gov. Gary Herbert signed HB 105. HB 105 is very restrictive, only allowing patients suffering from intractable epilepsy to legally possess the concentrated oil. It does not establish a way for patients to have safe and reliable access to the medicine.
The medical marijuana bill approved by the senate committee Thursday is the first expanded piece of legislation introduced. Sen. Madsen has high hopes for the Senate vote, but it will face opposition. Even if the bill is not passed this year, it will encourage lawmakers and voters, alike, to discuss the full spectrum of pros and cons that come with legalization.