Time runs out on medical cannabis bill, but it’s not over yet

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A bill that would allow for medical cannabis to be sold and used here in Utah was up for debate in the state Senate.

Senate Bill 259 was held after a quick debate Monday. Its sponsor, Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Saratoga Springs, tried to call for a vote but other lawmakers wouldn't hear of it.

"I absolutely object to this being voted on right now," Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross said.

Senate Majority Leader Ralph Okerlund, R-Monroe, pressed Sen. Madsen to circle the bill, which would hold it temporarily. Sen. Madsen reluctantly agreed to it.

"It pains me with 10 days left, but I realize, and I don’t know that I’m going to win any votes, but I realize the tactic here," he said. "We’ll circle it."

Sen. Madsen tried to quickly present SB259 to his colleagues, while he acknowledged that a substitute was coming that would answer many of their questions. The bill would allow for medical cannabis to be sold through licensed dispensaries, in only gummy or oil form.

"There are no tie-dyed T-shirts, no bongs," he said, insisting that it would not lead to recreational marijuana being legalized in the state.

People with ailments like cancer, AIDS, Multiple Sclerosis, epilepsy, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder could be prescribed cannabis under the care of a licensed medical specialist.

On Monday, a fiscal note was attached to SB259 that said it would cost taxpayers nearly $8 million to set up. Sen. Madsen disputed that number, but said he believed that tax revenue could be gained by the sale of cannabis.

Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, had numerous questions about the bill. He asked about how "pain" was defined, and had concerns about zoning for dispensaries and other issues.

"The (Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing) may inspect medical cannabis establishment by appointment? I’m sorry, but DOPL comes in unannounced for good reason," Sen. Vickers said. "I would highly recommend you change that."

Sen. Madsen said many concerns would be addressed in a substitute bill he had drafted, which was expected to be unveiled soon. While it was circled, SB259 is expected to be brought back for debate on Tuesday or Wednesday.

The bill has caused much debate amongst lawmakers, especially after its sponsor revealed he had traveled to Colorado to take medical cannabis as treatment for chronic back pain. Senate Minority Leader Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, told reporters on Monday that his Democratic colleagues had taken no position on it.

"As it is right now, I don’t think I would support it," he told FOX 13. "It depends on how it’s fine tuned and what the final would be before I make that decision."

House Republican leaders were also wrestling with the concept.

"My wife’s 92-year-old grandmother lobbied me heavily on this bill over dinner last night," said House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper. "She is an ardent supporter of Sen. Madsen’s bill. Grandma Alice told me I should get a clue."

Still, Hughes said he wanted to hear more about the bill from medical experts.

"It’s a tough issue for me to dive into and it feels more political than it does about medicine," he added.

House Majority Whip Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, said he had several people close to him contact him and express their support for SB259. Asked if he would support it, Rep. Gibson told reporters: "I’m not a blanket 'No,' if that’s what you’re asking."

10 comments

  • Mike

    Why deny sick people an alternative way to help with their illnesses! Especially if it has been proven to have little or no side effects, like most of the other medicines do! and I also think they should be able to take it anyway they choose, even if it means smoking it!

    • Brad

      Mike in Utah our government doesn’t the sick or the poor should be helped! We pay taxes to the feds and if we want to get some of that money back to cover poor and sick people the think this is bad! They perfer to see people suffer and die.

  • Darlene Bright

    I have lupus and had breast cancer, hep C, rls (restless leg syndrome). I am remission according to my dr’s but have side effects from the cancer treatments and hep c treatments ! I can no longer work because of memory loss and bad headaches. I live with pain everyday ! I am tired of taking pain meds that have caused many side effects ! Please help

  • Kdc

    Welcome to Utah. Now set your clock back 20 years: This bill will never pass because Elohim of Kolob told Monson not let it pass, and Monson told the goverment not to let it pass. I mean less than 1% of the world is Mormon, and of those, only a small margin will ever get to the highest kingdom. Everyone else is out of luck. So why would Elohim care about sick people when he cares nothing of 99% of the world. He’s a real nice God that Elohim is.

    • JoAnn Thompson

      You don’t know what your talking about. Dissing God will get you no where. If you think Utah will not eventually pass legal use of pot, think again. Utah is allowing same sex marriage, who would have thought!! Although I’m sure, no, positive that God is not pleased with that one. Wait and see.

      • Candi L.

        Joann are you married? Have kids? You are a pathetic piece of work if you think you deserve to have a family and loved ones and anyone in the LGBT community does not. You have no right to judge any one. According to you religous folk only God can judge….take your own advice and see where you end up when you spend your time judging others.

      • JoAnn

        Amazing that everyone can leave comments just fine, but disagree with the discussion, and get personally attacked. I don’t remember attacking anyone on my post. Yes and yes on your questions. I’m still entitled to my opinion even if you don’t like it. Oh, and it is spelled religious.

  • Destiny

    I don’t really inderstand why there is even a political debate about the use of medical marijuana. It obviously already been proven to be a medicine and help in various ways. People are going to use it as medicine or recreationally wether anyone likes it or not. There is no putting an end to marijuana. But why would we try and stop and pentalize those who do use it fie medicinal purposes? Our doctors prescribe far more harmful medications with far worse side effects and that seems to be okay.
    LEGALIZE.

    • banderasgrl

      Wow, I so agree. Pharmaceuticals are so harmful it’s always a trade off of side effects. At least pot isn’t harmful. And I don’t even smoke! It should still be used as needed freely.

  • Jammie R Cunningham

    I have to say something here. I have multipule sclerosis and the medicine I prefer is pot. It helps calm my anxiety, improves my depression, helps calmd my PTSD,sooths my muscle spasms,t list

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