Against the odds stacked against it, a medical marijuana bill is advancing in the Utah State Legislature.
The Utah State Senate voted 17-12 to approve Senate Bill 73, sponsored by Sen. Mark Madsen,R-Saratoga Springs. It will allow patients with certain ailments (cancer, AIDS, epilepsy and chronic pain) to use marijuana edibles, extracts and oils under the direction of a doctor.
Madsen said during Thursday’s debate his latest version of the bill clears up the definition of “cannabis”, and adds child-proofing standards, dosing regulations and other considerations.
Proponents of legalizing medical marijuana cheered and exchanged tearful hugs that would make Utah the 24th state to adopt a medical-marijuana program.
The Bill will now go to the Utah House of Representatives for a vote. Advocates for the bill say the measure will face opposition in the house, but proponents said this most recent vote gives them hope that they can ralley the necessary 38 votes to get the bill passed.
“I really did not expect the passage. I really didn’t think we’d get these votes today,” said Christine Stenquist, co-founder and president of the group Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education.
Stenquist and other advocates who had threatened to launch an initiative to let voters decide in November whether to legalize medical marijuana acknowledged the initiative may be difficult to pull off because there may not be enough time to gather the 101,700 signatures needed to get on the ballot this year.
And if a ballot initiative effort comes up short this year, the law would prevent advocates from bringing it back until 2018.
“The idea was always to handle it legislatively so we can get medicine into patients’ hands as soon as possible,” said Stenquist.
Opponents of SB73 warned that marijuana use has consequences like addiction, crime and increased use by youths.