Utah has a new medical marijuana law — but not the one approved by voters in the recent election

This article originally appeared in The Salt Lake Tribune. Read it in its entirety here.

On Monday, the first business day after Utah’s medical cannabis initiative became law, state legislators supplanted it with a more tightly controlled plan for providing marijuana-based treatment.

The Utah Medical Cannabis Act, designed as a replacement for voter-approved Proposition 2, breezed through the Utah House of Representatives and Senate during Monday’s special session. The one-day gathering of state lawmakers has been in the works since October, when Gov. Gary Herbert announced that supporters and opponents of Prop 2 had reached consensus around a legislative solution to their disagreements.

Votes in both chambers largely broke down on party lines, with Democrats arguing that the Legislature should not override voters who endorsed the ballot initiative in last month’s election.

However, Speaker Greg Hughes, who defended the bill on the floor, argued the legislation is the fruit of inclusive deliberations that unfolded over many hours in public and private.

“I’m proud of the process that we’ve gone through, that we’ve had more public, formal hearings as well as informal hearings than any bill we’ve been involved in,” he told House members Monday.

The measure passed the House by 60-13 and the Senate by 22-4. Herbert signed it into law Monday night.

“This is a historic day,” he said in a news release. “With the passage of the Utah Medical Cannabis Act, Utah now has the best-designed medical cannabis program in the country. Working with trained medical professionals, qualified patients in Utah will be able to receive quality-controlled cannabis products from a licensed pharmacist in medical dosage form. And this will be done in a way that prevents diversion of product into a black market.”

Alliance for a Better Utah on Monday urged lawmakers not to meddle with the measure approved at the ballot box. “We strongly urge state lawmakers to honor the will of the people on medical cannabis legislation. Regardless of their personal policy preferences, lawmakers should respect that a majority of voters approved Proposition 2,” Chase Thomas, executive director of the progressive-leaning nonprofit, said in a prepared statement.

The bill significantly reduces the number of private medical marijuana outlets compared with Prop 2; while the ballot initiative would permit up to 40 dispensaries, the legislation only allows seven so-called cannabis “pharmacies.” Much of the distribution would be state-run, with cannabis orders delivered to local health departments for pickup by patients.

This article originally appeared in The Salt Lake Tribune. Read it in its entirety here.

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