Governor calls special session to address medical marijuana compromise bill

ST. GEORGE  While medical marijuana becomes legal in Utah Saturday in the wake of Proposition 2 passing earlier this month, Gov. Gary Herbert called for a special session of Utah Legislature Friday to address a compromise bill that if passed could overwrite the ballot initiative.

A laboratory manager holds a cannabis sample in Oakland, Calif., June 21, 2018 | Associated Press file photo by Jeff Chiu, St. George News

Slated to meet at 10 a.m. Monday, the Legislature will consider the compromise bill that has been drafted by both supporters and opponents of Proposition 2.

A longstanding argument of opponents to the medical marijuana ballot measure is that they consider it too broad in its application. In its current form, they say the new law and could have unintended consequences, such as creating a marijuana black market within the state while also harming the state’s youth.

Medical marijuana supporters, such as the libertarian-leaning Libertas Institute, say the compromise bill addresses the concerns of Proposition 2’s detractors.

Crafting the bill with stakeholders on both sides, including state lawmakers, ahead of the legislative session, is also seen as a way to help keep legislators from attempting to drastically change the compromise bill.

Opponents of the compromise bill have called it an attempt to override the will of the people. Proposition 2 passed with 52 percent of the vote statewide, though it did fail in Washington County.

Read more: ‘We are stoked’: Father of epileptic son who supported ballot initiative excited at Prop 2’s passing

Elder Jack N. Gerard of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meets with the media following an announcement on Utah’s Capitol Hill for a compromise to Proposition 2, Salt Lake City, Oct. 4, 2018 | File photo courtesy of Intellectual Reserve / The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, St. George News

Proposition 2 supporters, namely the medical marijuana advocacy group TRUCE Utah, have also threatened a lawsuit against state lawmakers and others who helped create the compromise bill, including the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

They argue the LDS church is using its political clout to unduly influence the Legislature in favor of the compromise bill, given a majority of the state lawmakers are members of the church.

Read more: LDS church, lawmakers threatened with lawsuit over Prop 2 compromise bill

LDS church representatives have stated the church supports medical marijuana use as long as it is state-regulated, yet does not support how Proposition 2 would go about it.

Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake City, said she plans to introduce substitute legislation that, while making some technical changes to Proposition 2, would largely keep it intact, according to Fox 13 News.

However, she also said the bill is a long shot and has asked the public to push their legislators to support Proposition 2 and not the compromise bill.

Other matters the Legislature will address during the special session include mechanisms for funding ongoing construction of the new prison and legislation authorizing adjustments to state driver’s licenses to facilitate compliance with federal requirements for identification.

Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

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