Utah Senate gives tentative approval to medical marijuana bill

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SALT LAKE CITY -- In a narrow vote, the Utah State Senate approved a bill that would clear the way for medical marijuana in Utah.

The Senate voted 15-13 to pass Senate Bill 73, which allows qualifying medical patients to use marijuana in edible, extract and oil form to treat ailments. SB73 faces one more vote in the Senate, which could happen as early as Wednesday. The Senate voted 18-8 to pass Senate Bill 89, a competing bill that would allow for an extract to treat medical conditions. That bill now goes to the House for consideration.

In emotional remarks, SB73 sponsor Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Saratoga Springs, pleaded with his colleagues to pass the bill -- naming patients who were hoping to use medical marijuana to treat their pain.

"I don't want to let them down. Please help Doug and Ashley and Adam and Carter, please help hundreds of patients who anxiously await our action today. Don't let them down!" he cried.

Madsen watered down his bill after opposition from Senate colleagues and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. On Monday, the LDS Church softened its opposition to SB73, but still didn't give its blessing to the legislation.

Senators were divided on the bill.

"I encourage my colleagues to stand up for the many people who are desperate," said Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City.

Sen. Deidre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork, pressed Madsen on dosages and expressed concern for youth.

"To say there is no harm? Is not true. It's just not. It simply isn't true," she said.

Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, R-South Jordan, said there was a lot of unknowns about the bill's potential consequences, but said the best one to make the decision was a doctor working with a patient. Sen. Allen Christensen, R-Ogden, said he would vote no on it.

"There exists absolute evidence that whole plant marijuana cures everything from ingrown toenails to cancer. Of course, all of this evidence is anectodal. Nothing is scientifically proven," he said.

With such a close vote on SB73, backers of medical marijuana said they were planning to push ahead with a ballot initiative, taking it out of the hands of lawmakers and putting it before voters.

"It's looking like we may have to," said Christine Stenquist, a medical marijuana patient and supporter of the ballot initiative. "Because we're not getting much of our voices heard right now."

Meanwhile, Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, was asked if his SB89 could combine with Sen. Madsen's SB73.

"Could we ever merge them? In theory, yes. It's true. In practicality? I'm not sure," he said.



  • Joy Middlemas

    A move in the right direction. I’m so happy for all that this bill will help~! I’m a grateful resident! Thank you Senator Madsen!

  • Ted

    The bill has become so watered down, that even if passed, won’t allow for access to the most beneficial medicinal affects by allowing possession of the plant itself, for strictly medical treatment. The ballot initiative process should move forward, regardless of whether SB 73 survives the Senate, or not.

    • Joy Middlemas

      You are so right! It IS watered down beyond belief and to simply appease a religion. So wrong! I still hope there will be a ballot to sign… Get it done the right way. If all we can get is so limited it segregates people who can qualify for Medical Cards and those that do not, Let’s use our individual powers and make it happen. Start with the signatures! I still appreciate all that has been done.. Madson was in tears! Shouldn’t need to get to that!

      • Ted

        I’ll be among the early ones to join the petition drive, if initiated. The LDS church apparently has little faith in the “faithful” by never ceasing to inject it’s expectations upon the legislature for a variety of bills they fear won’t go their way. Really, church leadership: We don’t live in a theocracy. Allow the legislative process to work as it should. Our representatives are not children who need guidance from above. Give them a little credit. Rarely could anything be of such grave importance that the most conservative members of the legislature aren’t capable of deciding amongst themselves and represent the will of the people without undue influence and expectations from the majority religion.

  • Jonnybegood

    The state of Utah is a joke, it’s all about LDS leaders not about the state senate, there all LDS running this state!!
    they don’t even drink Caffeine & you think there going to pass this.
    Water down is right, GOD put the plant & seeds on earth for a reason!! Let’s see if we had a contest you bring all the alcohol I’ll bring the weed, for every shot you take I’ll take a hit let see who dies first….

    • kc

      Your logic is flawed, but I’m sure you won’t understand. To dumb it down, God also put certain clovers on this earth. From these clovers we got warfarin. If used incorrectly, warfarin will kill you. Under the proper supervision, warfarin saves countless lives each year.
      If weed is to be legalized, it should be certain componets, prescribed by md, dispensed by pharmacist, under a REMS program, monitored by the CSD, and only be administered in abused deterrent forms. It should under no circumstance be smoked/vapped.

      Sadly the bulk proponents of these bills either desire to abuse or want to get rich. If the patients best care truly is the goal, it has to have the doctor / pharmacist combo to mitigate risks and minimize diversion.

      • Ted

        Your ignorance is astonishing, yet expected in our rigid, go by the book, Utah culture. There are countless medical benefits derived from the non-abusive use of the entire marijuana plant, not some radically altered “safer” version the pharmaceutical industry will soak the sick and dying out of their last dollar, as with so many other “approved” drugs. Apparently, you haven’t looked very closely at the proponents of the bill that will most likely fail and end up as a petition drive. These are genuinely ill people who know first hand the medicinal value of the unaltered plant. Senator Madsen is hardly a dope fiend, looking for a way to enrich himself and help all his buddies find a way to grow their own. While the pharmaceutical industry should investigate ways to produce legal, effective versions that truly work as well as the much maligned plant, seriously ill people have the right to try the real thing, when it’s been demonstrated that good old regular pot works. It’s not a liberal conspiracy spreading to Utah. California and Colorado allow the practice. I don’t see a surge in illegal use, or cannabis facilities peddling the finished product out the back door. Utah can set a model for the rest of a skeptical country and maintain control. But the way the Utah Senate always bows to the wishes of the LDS leadership on “high” it’s an exercise in futility to even bother. May the initiative to allow legal marijuana for proper, medical use, begin!

      • FATSAC (@FATSAC)

        So you throw around insults and then expect people to care about what you write. Let me dumb it down for you there KC… it is going to be smoked/vaped/eaten/extracted/concentrated and blown in the face of you irresponsible pharmaceutical nut jobs that just don’t get it. Sugar has killed more people than weed and your pharmaceuticals are a flipping epidemic in this country. Dr’s just throw more and more pills at people that do not need them. It is a Dr’s go-to thing…they cannot fix you but they are sure a pill can or will tell you that just to get you out of the door. We can buy pure grain alcohol at the “Utah State” liquor store without any sort of limit and I don’t see you picketing them. How about the smoke shop that sells nothing but cancer sticks all day long. Why are you not trying to put that in pill form? You should take your undereducated rants and preach them to someone else…maybe your kids…because that is the only one that respects your opinion. Next time say it without the insults and some may actually listen.

      • Fred T

        Warfarin? Are you serious? No, we are not children under the supervision of the church. It is time to end this rediculous mountain of strawman after falacy after slippery slope. We are adults and have every right to use marijuana medicinally OR recreationally. End prohibition. Put this on the ballot. We are adults for crying out loud.

      • Bhillstead

        Yes, because the MD/pharmacist combo has such an excellent track record at mitigating risk and minimizing diversion. No one in utah has access to prescription drugs that aren’t prescribed to them.

  • Fred T

    Bring it to the people to vote. We are tired of these useless lawmakers kowtowing to the church and disenfranchising the remaining majority of the state. Put it on the ballot in November.

  • saltcityslasher

    Nice update. I have a feeling one of these will pass. I think with Colorado right next door, Utah needs to stay up to date, they have all the data we could possibly want and copy same methods to make sure we do it right. It is just shocking that this is such a big deal, I read an article that showed how much narcotics are in pharmacies, and that many medications aren’t that far from crystal meth, cocaine, and opiates, in fact many medicines are the exact same, all known to be much more dangerous and addictive, but LDS church isn’t knocking at pharmacy doors, or going over Doctors heads to say whats allowed in Utah, which means this, and alcohol shouldn’t be any different.

  • rock star

    No offence to a church but does anyone realy care what a church’s opinion on medicine is? Do medical professionals ask the church if they back any other types of medicine? Did they go to them when antibiotics where discovered? Other painkillers? Did they get there blessing for vacinations?

    I truely dont intend to offend anyone of faith but i feel that any religion has no place giving their blessing or not to any type of medicine. This should be for medical professional to say.

  • Bhillstead

    What’s really interesting is that even after the church came out against sen. Madsens bill, 61% of Utahns still were in favor of it. In fact, even a majority of LDS members are in favor of medical marijuana, according to recent polls.

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