Senate Committee Passes Bill Developing Utah Medical Marijuana Program

A bill that would continue to develop Utah’s medical marijuana program passed unanimously out of the Senate Health and Human Services committee on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 121 would offer changes to the program including increasing the doctor-patient quota, allowing card holders to buy medical cannabis out of state and allowing the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food to test cannabis products.

Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, is sponsoring the bill. He said the changes don’t necessarily loosen up the regulations established by the Legislature during a special session last year.

“Yes it does allow for the facilitation of the program, to get it in place,” Vickers said. “But, I would never do anything, in my mind, that would lead to a stepping stone towards recreational use.”

During the open comment period, several members of the public spoke out against the bill. Like Nathan Kizerian, who criticized aspects such as not allowing the use of medical cannabis outside someone’s home 60 days after it is purchased.

“This 60 day thing, I could call it immoral. I’m going to call it pure evil. Why do we want to put terminally ill people in handcuffs?” Kizerian said. “Let’s say they lose their prescription in the console of their car and they get charged with possession of marijuana because they’re like one day over.”

However, Connor Boyack with the lobbying organization Libertas Institute said the new amendments actually lightens some penalties, like if a patient smokes medical cannabis, as opposed to ingesting.

“They would start out as an infraction, rather than a misdemeanor, serving as a warning to that patient saying, ‘Hey, you need to become educated with what is proper under this law,'” Boyack said. “And then, if you run into that again in the future it would be a criminal penalty. So, if anything, it actually has softer gloves to the patients. There are no new felony penalties.”

Senate Bill 121 is now heading to the Senate to be voted on by the entire body.

This story was reported and produced by Tim Pierce. 

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