Medical marijuana bill returns to the Utah State Legislature

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A controversial bill that would allow medical marijuana to be sold and distributed in Utah will return to the state legislature this year.

Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Saratoga Springs, told FOX 13 in a recent interview that he plans to re-introduce his bill that would bring medical cannabis to Utah.

"We will absolutely bring that bill back," he said. "It will be improved, it'll have the benefit of an additional year's worth of work."

Madsen's bill would make medical cannabis available in Utah to people with severe or chronic medical conditions including cancers, AIDS and epilepsy. The bill narrowly died in the Utah State Senate earlier thisĀ year, with many senators complaining they had not had enough time to properly vet the legislation. This time, Madsen said he intended to hold community meetings and bring in expert testimony in support of medical cannabis.

"Those who argued there wasn't enough process -- we will absolutely take that argument away from them," he said.

Madsen raised eyebrows on Utah's Capitol Hill when he revealed that he had traveled to Colorado to try cannabis himself as treatment for chronic back pain. In a recent interview with FOX 13, the senator disclosed that he had made another trip.

"I've been back to Colorado once," he said. "I took advantage of being there to get relief during my time there. But here in this state, I can't go that far."

Madsen is preparing for an uphill battle to get his medical cannabis bill passed, but said he has had growing support across the state, declaring: "the people are smarter than their government."

"The polls reflect the people understand these principles of compassion and freedom," Madsen said. "We just have to get their elected representatives to catch up with the wisdom that is already in the people."

While many lawmakers remain skeptical, Governor Gary Herbert's office said he is now open to having a discussion about medical cannabis -- with plenty of caution.

"Marijuana use for a medicinal purpose in the same way that we would have medicinal controls for other substances -- controlled substances, prescription substances -- is something he's willing to look at and study and work through," said governor's spokesman Marty Carpenter. "Usually if we measure twice before we cut, we want to measure two or three times before we cut."

The Utah State Legislature's Interim Health and Human Services Committee is expected to consider medical marijuana as a bill for study next week.