No access to medical marijuana this year, legislators say; advocates vow ballot initiative

L-R: Sen. Brian Shiozawa, R-Salt Lake City, Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem, and Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, discuss medical cannabis legislation during a press conference. While bills promoting research and infrastructure are being proposed and supported this legislative session, legislation granting potential access to medical cannabis is being shelved this year, much to the frustration of medical cannabis advocates, Salt Lake City, Utah, Jan. 27, 2017 | Photo courtesy of Fox 13 News, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – Supporters of medical marijuana will have to wait longer for the Legislature to approve potential access to the drug, because it won’t happen this year.

Legislators involved in proposed medical marijuana legislation said in a press conference Friday the best thing the state could do for now was push research forward, yet wait and see what the new presidential administration was going to do.

Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville, said that three medical marijuana bills were in the works for the 2017 legislative session. Froerer’s own bill proposes policy regulating how the plant could be used, while one from Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, would provide groundwork for infrastructure (the day-to-day handling of growth, sales and use of the plant, for example).

File photo: Marijuana in the Browse region of the Dixie National Forest, Washington County, Utah, Aug. 24, 2012 | Photo by Joyce Kuzmanic, St. George News

The third bill from Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem, House Bill 130: Cannabinoid Medicine Research, calls for research into the plant’s potential medicinal applications. It is co-sponsored by Vickers.

Due the current political climate and not knowing just yet how President Donald Trump and his administration will address the medical cannabis issue, Froerer said he’s shelving his bill for the time being.

Marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, yet regulation of medical and recreational marijuana has largely been left to the states. That policy could either be further loosened or tightened under Trump as time passes.

Despite pulling back the policy bill, Froerer said it was “still on the table” in the future and supported the pending legislation being developed by Daw and Vickers.

“If it’s medicine, treat it like medicine,” Daw said, quoting an earlier remark from Vickers. Before medicine can be prescribed, it is thoroughly tested so ultimately doctors know what to prescribe it for, how it may interact with other drugs and what side affects the medicine could have.

“We need to know what the plant does and what it will do,” he said.

Vickers said he was once opposed to the idea of medical marijuana, but has since evolved his view and is now sponsoring a bill related to it.

There is potential value to patients” from the plant, Vickers said, but he also called for additional research.

Regarding his own bill that would put regulations in place related to the growth, sale and general handling of marijuana, Vickers said it may not pass this year. The bill has a “hefty fiscal note” attached to it, he said, and in a tight budget year, may not fly with other legislators.

Both Vickers and Sen. Brian Shiozawa, R-Salt Lake City, a pharmacist and medical doctor respectively, want the federal government to drop marijuana from a schedule I to a schedule II drug. This would make it easier for more research on the potential benefits and uses of the plant to be conducted.

Medical marijuana could be studied for the purpose of becoming an alternative to opioid-based medications, as well as for a possible use in helping cancer patients and those with PTSD, Sen. Brian Shiozara, R-Salt Lake City, said | Stock photo, St. George News

Medical marijuana could be studied for the purpose of becoming an alternative to opioid-based medications, Shiozawa said, as well as for possible use in helping cancer patients and those with PTSD.

For the moment though, the federal government only allows certain institutions to study schedule I drugs.

Vickers has yet to file his framework legislation.

So far 28 states have passed laws legalizing medical marijuana – so the question remains: Hasn’t that produced enough research? Daw said he believed it had not.

Daw was also asked if it was unfair that patients in Utah would be denied access to marijuana in their own state when it is available in others.

“I don’t know if it’s fair or unfair,” Daw said, “but I do believe we owe it to our medical community before we start prescribing this – to give them the data they have asked for in order to prescribe it widely.”

With access to medical marijuana being put on the shelf for another year, the issue may ultimately be taken out of the Legislature’s hands by a ballot initiative.

“That clearly is on the horizon,” Daw said.

Medical marijuana advocates were not happy with the results of the press conference.

“The legislature only wants to do a regulatory framework and taxpayer-funded research that is unnecessary and duplicative,” Christine Stenquist, founder of Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education, or TRUCE, said in a statement.

The path forward continues the victimization of patients in Utah,” Stenquist said. “We are surrounded by states that have whole plant cannabis access and our sister state Idaho has decided to move forward on a ballot initiative. It is time for Utah to do the same.”

TRUCE announced Friday it is forming a separate political action committee for the purpose of preparing a ballot initiative for 2018 that would legalize the use of medical cannabis if passed by the voters.

View the press conference is its entirely below, courtesy of Fox 13 News.

Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

 

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17 Comments

  • Proud Rebel January 27, 2017 at 7:38 pm

    Get it on a ballot initiative! It’s the only way that any sanity is going to be brought to this subject.
    These old white dudes in SLC could care less about the benefits of MJ. All they want is to show their LDS constituents that they are “Good Little Mormons,” so they can be re-elected again.

    • .... January 28, 2017 at 6:09 am

      Put it on the ballot initiative ? in Utah ? LOL !

  • ladybugavenger January 27, 2017 at 7:40 pm

    Marijuana use to be legal. It use to be used for medical purposes before the war on drugs made it a schedule 1 drug by the government. It’s in the same schedule class as meth-horrible!

  • ladybugavenger January 27, 2017 at 7:47 pm

    How long has the war on drugs been going on? Like 35 years? It’s time to make marijuana legal and take it out of the war. I don’t blame them for waiting to see what Trump does or does not do. Heck! You might get the green light and cut through the red tape. Or, he doesn’t like drugs, so if he thinks marijuana is dangerous, marijuana will still be in the war.

    It’s a pickle, no doubt about it.

    • .... January 28, 2017 at 6:12 am

      The war on drugs was lost the moment it started

  • utahdiablo January 27, 2017 at 9:59 pm

    154% increase in Pot auto accidents in Colorado from 2006 – 2014 as well as all the other states that Pot use is legal. Trump is anti drug, so yes he will fight it being legalized in any more states….many of us here in Utah don’t want it either….but here’s the Colorado story, not that you’ll read it.. http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwi5xcOmhuTRAhUE9WMKHQW9A28QFggdMAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.factcheck.org%2F2016%2F08%2Funpacking-pots-impact-in-colorado%2F&usg=AFQjCNEhCfxToWUA7AHzV3wqLCxh_NAGGQ

    • ladybugavenger January 28, 2017 at 9:19 am

      I read some of it, but it would be hard to determine if pot was the cause since pot stays in your system long after the effects wear off.

      These statistics show that marijuana was in their system but it cannot prove it was the cause.

      So, what do all these numbers mean? Nothing. You can’t determine if they are just idiots and that’s the cause or marijuana is the cause. All these numbers say is that, at the time, they tested positive for marijuana. Again, marijuana stays in the body long after smoking it.

      I’d argue, sober people get in accidents all the time. St George is a good example.

      • jaybird January 28, 2017 at 11:12 am

        PS: MJ stays in the system for 40 days lady. You don’t need to be high to know that.

        • ladybugavenger January 28, 2017 at 2:03 pm

          It depends on body fat of how long thc stays in the system. And that’s my point, the numbers are fruitless about marijuana accidents increasing.

    • jaybird January 28, 2017 at 11:11 am

      Trump need Xanax. Push that.

  • utahdiablo January 27, 2017 at 10:06 pm

    And if you really need Pot to help you medically? You can always drive to Colorado, Nevada, California, Oregon and Washington and load up….

    • .... January 28, 2017 at 5:45 am

      LOL ….load up ? it’s still illegal in Utah

    • comments January 28, 2017 at 12:35 pm

      load up and get a felony

  • ladybugavenger January 28, 2017 at 9:25 am

    I would not personally smoke pot then drive. Heck, I wouldn’t even smoke pot, I’ve seen that stuff on tv, id probably get paranoid and my heart would race. Someone might involuntarily commit me to the psych ward lol

    Right or wrong, I just think it would be economically beneficial to not arrest people because of a joint.

  • jaybird January 28, 2017 at 11:09 am

    What can we expect from theses prescription loving, opiod pushers. This state sucks when it comes to politics and healthcare, employee pay. But then all those republican legislators like to tell us we are just to do WHAT THEY SAY, NOT WHAT THEY DO. They are the masters of the ignorant masses.

  • comments January 28, 2017 at 12:34 pm

    These mormons really do love their opioid narcotics and pretty much all big pharma’s chemical poisons. It’s a strange cult for sure.

  • ladybugavenger January 28, 2017 at 2:04 pm

    Opioids suck! Get rid of them and legalize marijuana

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