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Utah’s ‘Right to Try’ Medical Marijuana Bill is Officially in Effect

The measure allows terminally ill patients to see if medical marijuana is an effective treatment for them.

A.J. Herrington

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Utah's 'Right to Try' Medical Marijuana Bill is Officially in Effect
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Utah’s ‘Right to Try’ medical marijuana bill officially went into effect yesterday. But under the new law, only terminally ill patients will have access to medicinal cannabis.

House Bill 195 (HB195) allows terminally ill patients to possess and use marijuana for medical use. The measure adds medicinal cannabis to the auspices of 2015’s Right to Try Act. That law allows patients with a terminal illness to use medical treatments not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). HB195 officially adds medical marijuana as one of the experimental treatments allowed under the Right to Try Act.

The Utah Senate easily passed HB 195 on March 7 by a vote of 19-3. The House of Representatives then approved the measure 40-26 on March 20 and sent it to Governor Gary Herbert, who signed the bill into law.

Companion Bill Also Becomes Law

Another new measure, House Bill 197 (HB197), also went into effect yesterday. A companion to HB195, this law authorizes the establishment of a medicinal cannabis cultivation program in the state.

However, HB197 had a more difficult road to approval by the state legislature. Like HB195, it also cleared the Senate without difficulty, by a margin of 20-5.

In the House, bills must receive at least 38 votes (a majority of the body’s 75 members) to pass. HB197 failed to receive approval on an initial vote, with a tally in favor by 36-34 votes.

But a motion to reconsider was approved, resuscitating the measure. Before a second vote, Rep. Brad Daw, the sponsor of both HB195 and HB197, told his fellow lawmakers that patients need both bills.

“This bill becomes the way to supply a genuine cannabis medicine for both those programs. We need to pass this bill if we want to have patients the ability to try both under Right to Try and under research,” Daw said.

New Law May Be Irrelevant Soon

But the two laws that went into effect yesterday may soon be a moot point. A much broader initiative legalizing medical marijuana appears to be heading for November’s ballot.

Organizers of the campaign for the Utah Medical Cannabis Act have already turned in enough signatures to qualify for the election. The Utah Patients Coalition gathered more than 40,000 signatures in excess of the 113,143 necessary.

The Utah Medical Cannabis Act, if successful, would allow patients with a list of specific serious medical conditions to use medical marijuana. The bill also allows for the creation of a legalized cultivation and distribution infrastructure and regulatory framework to manage it. The bill limits patients to two ounces of marijuana or 10 grams of THC or CBD per 14 day period. Smoking marijuana and driving under the influence would still be prohibited. Far more patients would qualify for medical marijuana under the initiative.

However, the measure has not officially qualified for the ballot just yet. And an anti-pot group is hoping to keep it that way. Drug Safe Utah has begun a drive to convince people who have signed petitions to now remove their names from petitions. If enough signers change their minds, the initiative could fail to qualify for the ballot after all.

A.J. Herrington is a San Diego-based writer and photographer covering cannabis and the environment.

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