Utah governor seeks medical cannabis program that’s stricter than ballot measure

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Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said he wants legislators to take action on medical marijuana and backed a much more restrictive program than the legalization initiative that’s on the state’s November ballot.

According to the Deseret News, Herbert told reporters he would vote against the ballot initiative and instead use his “bully pulpit” to push a “common-sense position” that would call for county health departments to serve as dispensaries.

DJ Schanz of the Utah Patients Coalition, which is backing the voter initiative, told the newspaper there would be “some grave legal challenges” to distributing cannabis through a government agency.

“While we appreciate the governor’s good-faith effort to move cannabis access along, we feel it’s best left with the voters,” Schanz said. “I think a fine balance was struck between regulation and patient access (in the ballot measure).”

Here’s a rundown surrounding the current situation in Utah:

  • The voter initiative would create a state-regulated market with potentially about 20 licensed dispensaries, as well as cultivators, processors and independent testers.
  • It would allow patients with certain medical conditions to use MMJ in a variety of forms but would ban smoking.
  • MMJ advocates decided to take the issue to the voters after years of frustration with the Republican-dominated Legislature.
  • The ballot initiative is opposed by a coalition that includes the Utah Medical Association, the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce and the Mormon church.
  • The governor and other opponents of the ballot initiative maintain the measure could open the door to recreational marijuana.

– Associated Press and Marijuana Business Daily