Can Utah Groups Compromise on the State’s Medical Marijuana Initiative?

Utah residents will have the chance to vote on medical marijuana this November. But what will happen afterwards?
Can Utah Groups Compromise on the State's Medical Marijuana Initiative?

Just weeks away from the November election, proponents of Utah’s medical marijuana initiative and groups campaigning against it have been meeting to formulate policy should the measure succeed at the polls, according to media reports. Representatives of the Utah Patients Coalition, the group supporting the initiative known as Proposition 2, and opposition group Drug Safe Utah are expected to announce an agreement at a press conference on Thursday.

On Tuesday, Michelle McOmber, the CEO of the Utah Medical Association and a vice president of Drug Safe Utah, told local media that her group was involved in negotiations that produced a compromise “we feel would be much safer and still be compassionate and answer the needs of patients.”

McOmber said that the agreement was reached “based on the safety of Utah, and the safety of kids, and the safety of patients,” and that it would implement “some of the better practices from other states.”

“It’s a process that we really just had to sit down and hammer out,” she added. “It’s basically a Utah solution.”

Proponents Confirm Compromise

DJ Schanz, the director of the Utah Patients Coalition confirmed that a “tentative agreement” had been reached.

“We have come up with a few modifications of agreement, and we’ll be releasing those shortly, in the next day or two,” Schanz said.

The agreement will eliminate two provisions that were meant to ensure that a workable medical marijuana program is implemented in a reasonable amount of time. One would allow patients who live more than 100 miles from a dispensary to cultivate cannabis. Another would give patients without a medical marijuana card a legal defense if they could demonstrate they were eligible for one.

“Those (provisions) were meant to be triggers to force the state to implement, and we’ve come up with some other triggers,” Schanz said.

The agreement will also tighten restrictions on dosing and dispensing in an effort to attain a more pharmacological program.

“It’s going to be in medicine format rather than the Wild West format that you see in the initiative,” McOmber said.

Schanz insisted that his group is not abandoning initiative, saying the agreement “isn’t a brand new working bill. This is modifications to Proposition 2 we’ve found acceptable.”

And despite the compromise, McOmber said that the Utah Medical Association is still against to the measure.

“We are still absolutely opposed to Proposition 2,” she said.

Some Advocates Leery of Compromise

Christine Stenquist, the executive director and founder of medicinal cannabis advocacy group TRUCE, told High Times that she is against a legislative compromise and says that Proposition 2 is the only guarantee of patient access to medical marijuana.

“The concern is the legislative body has shown in the past on other issues that they will work with advocates, they will make a bill, they will come up with some sort of compromise, but they will also undermine that bill with something else,” Stenquist said. “So that’s what my concern is. We have to hold the line on Prop 2.”

She said that with the Mormon Church, wealthy donors, law enforcement, and the medical community all against the medicinal use of cannabis, she does not believe that lawmakers will produce a viable program.

“They could write the most perfect cannabis bill across the nation and I still would not trust that they are actually going to implement it,” she said.

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