Legislators discuss pending medical marijuana issues

ST. GEORGE – The Utah Legislature’s general session begins Monday and among numerous issues to be considered over the next six weeks is the question of medical marijuana.

The issues of medical marijuana will again come before the Utah Legislature during its 2017 general session. Foreground photo shows the Utah Capitol in Salt Lake City, Utah, undated | Image composite, St. George News

As many as five different bills addressing aspects of medical marijuana seem to be in the works as of last fall. It’s a hot topic with supporters recounting examples of the plant’s medicinal properties and effects while detractors voice worries about medical uses opening the door for eventual recreational use.

One bill filed so far by Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem, relates to cannabinoid research for medical purposes.

Members of Washington County’s legislative delegation discussed their own views and concerns surrounding medical marijuana legislation, along with other pending legislative issues, during a breakfast with community members Thursday.

Watch the video in media player top of this report.

Rep. Jon Stanard, R-St. George, shares his concerns about legalizing medical marijuana during an “Issues Over Eggs” breakfast gathering. He said the Legislature may want to hold off on the question of medical marijuana until they have a better idea of how the new Trump administration will address the issue at the federal level, St. George, Utah, Jan. 19, 2017 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Rep. Jon Stanard, R-St. George, said the Legislature may want to wait on passing anything marijuana related until they gain a better understanding of what the new administration may do.

With the new federal administration coming in, we probably need to wait and find out how both the (Department of Health and Human Services) and Justice Department are viewing these things, because it is still illegal,” Stanard said. “We don’t want to start something that could become a violation of the law.”

President Donald Trump’s pick for attorney general, Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, has voiced his opposition to legal marijuana in the past, saying, “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.”

In this 2016 file photo, former Democratic candidate for Utah governor, Mike Weinholtz, hugs his wife Donna Weinholtz after she spoke at a news conference. Hours after his wife pleaded guilty to misdemeanor pot-possession charges connected with two pounds of the drug found at their house, Mike Weinholtz pushed for legalization of medical marijuana. Salt Lake City, Utah, Oct. 11, 2016 | AP photo by Rick Bowmer, St. George News

Sessions was not so emphatic about the issue while being questioned during his Senate confirmation hearing earlier this month. During the hearing, he said he would use “good judgment” in relation to enforcing federal law that still marks marijuana as illegal while some states have legalized it for medical and recreational purposes.

Another issue concerning medical marijuana is a lack of data regarding its professed ability to ease pain, state Rep. Brad Last, R-Hurricane, said. He recounted testimony given by an anesthesiologist to a House committee last year that, based on his research into marijuana’s ability to mitigate pain, said the characteristics and effects are similar to that of ibuprofen.

So imagine us in the Legislature getting all this information,” Last said. “You have people on one side saying its the greatest thing ever and people on the other side saying it’s going to lead us down this path to destruction, and it’s really hard to decide.”

The Obama administration opened marijuana to additional study, Last said, adding his hope that the new president throws the door wide open for research.

L-R: Reps. Jon Stanard, R-St. George and Brad Last, R-Hurricane. Last spoke to the need for more research to be done concerning the medical applications of marijuana and hopes the Trump administration will enact measures allowing in-depth, long-term research of the presently illegal plant, St. George, Utah, Jan. 19, 2017 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

I hope … that the Trump Administration will just blow this thing wide open and reclassify the drug and allow long-term studies for the drug for specific purposes so we can see what it really does,” Last said.

Both Stanard and Last have concerns that legalizing marijuana for medicinal use may create a pathway for legal recreational use.

My biggest challenge (is it) being very clearly a direct path to recreational use being legalized if not accepted,” Stanard said.

There also appears to be a large, nationwide lobby for marijuana legalization that will benefit from the sale of the drug, Last said.

I believe there is a very structured strategy to start into medical marijuana and soften the people up about the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes and then to move it to the point where it becomes full recreational use,” he said.

Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, who represents Iron County and the eastern side of Washington County, told St. George News previously that while there’s a general understanding that the medical marijuana issue is significant, “more time is needed to develop solutions and consensus.”

Vickers is anticipated to unveil his own bill regarding the regulation of medical marijuana during the upcoming legislative session.

The Utah Medical Association has also chimed in on the issue. The group stated over Twitter Wednesday: “UMA supports more research, & slowing the push to legalize whole plant marijuana before public health effects are vetted by valid studies.”


The group has further stated that the term “medical marijuana” is deceptive, according to a Jan. 19 report by KSL.com, saying that only parts of the plant, such as cannabis-based extracts, may be medicinal while the whole plant is not.

A majority of Utahns are in favor of legalizing marijuana for medical use, according to a poll Utah Policy released in October 2016. Of Utahns surveyed, 63 percent favored medical marijuana use prescribed by licensed doctors while 35 percent opposed the idea. Their attitudes toward recreational use were not as favorable; 77 percent opposed and 22 percent supported legalizing recreational use.

The 2017 legislative session begins Monday and runs through March 9.

Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

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

 

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5 Comments

  • digger January 22, 2017 at 10:54 am

    Go-ahead n wait Utah, Meanwhile UTAH MONEY IS GOING TO COLORADO ARIZONA AND CALIFORNIA To Be Spent Out Of State On Their Medicinal Medicine. Better Get Your Hands In the Cookie jar You Pencil Heads!

  • ladybugavenger January 22, 2017 at 1:08 pm

    Legalize marijuana period! Y’all are wasting too much money, time, and law enforcement resources on silly marijuana. Let the people smoke pot if they want too. A felony for marijuana or distributing marijuana is ridiculous!!!

  • .... January 22, 2017 at 1:13 pm

    pencil heads ! really ? ..yawwwwn

  • comments January 22, 2017 at 4:00 pm

    The one thing that would bring the mormon legislature to legalization of weed would be their lust for money. The state can run it like they do their liquor business. After all, it’s just a plant.

  • Don Bagley January 23, 2017 at 1:35 am

    What’s happened in California is that the price of cannabis has dropped drastically, even though it’s heavily taxed. If legalized in Utah, new taxes could fund public services. Lower prices means that people would have more money to spend on retail or charitable donations. Everybody wins.

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