Utah lawmakers debate two medical marijuana bills

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A pair of medical marijuana bills were debated in the state Senate on Friday, with emotional arguments in favor of cannabis in Utah.

The Senate is considering competing bills on medical marijuana -- Senate Bill 89, sponsored by Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, which allows for a marijuana extract; and Senate Bill 73, sponsored by Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Saratoga Springs, which would allow for more marijuana use to treat ailments.

Sen. Vickers acknowledged his bill dealt with medical marijuana in "increments," but said it was a more prudent approach.

"We need to be careful how we do this, otherwise we'll only duplicate the pitfalls other states have experienced," he said.

Vickers' bill passed 26-3. Madsen's faced the bigger debate.

"I know some very powerful, political special interests have been working against this bill," Sen. Madsen said on the Senate floor. "I also know that the people of this state understand this issue. Maybe better than some of us here. I also know they're inclined to take this into their own hands if we don't do it right."

On Friday, Madsen announced a flurry of amendments to his bill to appease his opponents -- including the LDS Church. Among them, he gutted part of his bill by removing the "whole plant" aspect, allowing full marijuana flower to be used. Instead, only oils, extracts and edibles would be allowed. It still gives more of an effect than SB89, but could cost patients more, he said.

"I don't want to let this go," an emotional Madsen said. "This is an important part of the bill for a lot of people."

But that helped the bill's chances on Utah's Capitol Hill. Lawmakers who previously opposed his medical marijuana legislation came around. Sen. Pete Knudson, R-Brigham City, said he supported it. The amendments were why Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, announced he would vote for it.

"If we don't do something meaningful this session, then it will go to initiative. The states that have passed recreational by Colorado, it was done by initiative," Weiler said.

Sen. Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City, became emotional describing her late-husband's battle with lung cancer and how he was offered marijuana to treat the pain. He could not take it, she said, because he was a public servant.

"We need this. If we don't go there, shame on us!" Mayne said.

Patients who have admitted to using medical marijuana to treat chronic and terminal illnesses were in the Senate gallery watching the debate. Some became emotional as the debate was delayed until Monday.

"It's hard for patients to keep coming back up here and doing this, but it's good to get it done in the right way," said Amanda Ellis-Graham.

Christine Stenquist, who is helping with a ballot initiative should SB73 fail, told FOX 13 she believed the Senate may pass the bill.

"We may have the votes to pass second reading. That's optimistic. I do think they're concerned about a ballot initiative. I think they fear the people's will," she said.

Asked if it would halt the ballot initiative, Stenquist responded: "I don't know yet. I need to see what happens on Monday."


  • Frederick T

    I say let it go to initiative. I have no faith in Utah State Senate. It appears to be monopolized by church authorities. Put it on the Ballot for Utahns to decide. We are beyond tired of the LDS Church telling us how to live our lives. Prop 8 should’ve been the wakeup call for these legislators, but they refuse to make concessions and do not represent the will of the people.

  • saltcityslasher

    There is a documentary on Netflix about Breckenridge, and it shows how well state elected officials handled the stigma of marijuana. It was legal there, they just didn’t want it sold on main street, think how absurd that is, imagine allowing these types of people to make the laws for this. Mormon influence is an evil presence, the proof is in Liquor. Its legal, but they want to put all their rules on it, so that Utah’s nightlife keeps events and big people from coming. Utah would seriously be the only state dumb enough to legalize but not allow THC based oils. How about lawmakers go check how much Tax money Colorado is bringing in, and maybe we could stop getting all our tax money from big companies polluting the valley, aka Kennecott and Gas Refineries. Were more likely to get lung cancer walking around the streets of Salt Lake like my Mom (never smoked any in her life), than to go smoke marijuana the rest of our lives in a cleaner air state. Obviously our health isn’t important. Cause full legalization, and kicking out polluters, would be the best thing to happen.

  • laobai


    Born in Indiana, I hiked, explored caves, chased snakes. smoke good weed a cruise the net – though not necessarily in that order. I’m a lifelong consumer of connoisseur grade weed. I find that don’t I drink much alcohol when I have weed and I don’t use any other “drugs.” I consider myself to be living proof that weed is not a gateway drug. If it were, I’d be into some serious drugs by now. Instead, as a 51-year-old University teacher … I can only say, marijuana is safer than prescription pills or alcohol could ever be and has a great calming effect that should be available to anyone. I think alcohol, cigarettes and weed should more of a family decision as to when children should be allowed to consume. 15 is a fairer legal age. Back in the day I smoked pot as early as 10 and cigarettes at 11 or 12. Then at 19 I quit smoking cigarettes but I still like to smoke good weed.

  • eric noww

    SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: Smoking Cigarettes Causes Lung Cancer, Heart Disease, Emphysema, And May Complicate Pregnancy. (1985– now) However, we will continue to have tobacco products because it is a right of the people and we {They mostly} get a lot of money both under and over the table to keep cigarettes legal. Propaganda! You wouldn’t want to see anybody drinking alcohol or high before their work day in any field, sporting match or activity that involves being in the moment, driving, whatever. It should be a choice for the individual. Available for use you have Alcohol it’s 114% worse than cannabis {scientifically speaking}, or try the new powered alcohol, which seemed to just have appeared on the market from nowhere, Script drugs, Synthetics Fake pot, Bath salts, Cigars {Havanas, excluded for political reasons}, every single different type of tobacco, they’re chemicals really, Clove cigs., Chewing tobacco, Snuff, E-cigs, RUSH!, Poppers, Inhalants, Sugar (by far the worst of all!}, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Hydrogenated Oils, GMOs, CFCs, Olestra, think about some of the foods that are available, whats in your US Inspected food, drugs, UV tanning beds is it really healthy? That is available, if you ever had any of these and then smoke a joint, what is the healthy choice, now you don’t have one. That goes for all the players in this game of life. It’s a leaf from a plant, grown from mother earths soil. All natural high. Cannabis makes sense. Legalize this so the insanity can stop, make it legal like cigarettes and alcohol, so this can be over already, it’s a choice. If you don’t want to use it, you don’t HAVE to. Tobacco is not even tobacco, it’s chemicals, and in the “old days” {before 1964} less than 50 years ago was promoted by doctors and presidents {actors at the time} saying how healthy it was to breath the tobacco smoke deep into your lungs. They’ve changed their stance on smoking cigarettes, now they say they cause cancer, it’s about time they change their opinion of cannabis. Freedom of Choice, Not now! I think the best reply is why are all these things a choice but not cannabis? There is no reason Cannabis would be a gateway drug if legal. The local drug dealer, begs you to buy the harder drugs, “Here’s some free samples” {more ca$h for them}, which would not happen if legal. In the “old days” marijuana was made illegal because {if smoked} it would make white females crave black men. Evil Jazzmen {Google it all!} That is the reason it is illegal today. Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

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