To the Governor: Utah Passes Bills to Legalize Medical Marijuana for Some Terminally-Ill Patients

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (March 9, 2018) – On Wednesday, the Utah Senate gave final approval to two bills that would allow terminally ill patients to legally use medical marijuana under the state’s Right to Try law. Final passage would take a first step toward nullifying federal cannabis prohibition in effect in the Beehive State.

Rep. Brad Daw (R-Orem) and Sen. Evan Vickers (R-Cedar City) introduced House Bill 195 (HB195) on Jan. 19. Under the proposed law, qualifying patients under the Utah Right to Try Act could possess or use cannabis in a medicinal dosage.

Daw and Vickers also introduced House Bill 197 (HB197). This bill would allow the cultivation of cannabis in Utah to supply the medical marijuana program.

Utah passed its Right to Try Act in 2015. Under the law, terminally ill patients can try experimental treatments not yet approved by the FDA. HB195 would expand Right to Try to include the option of medical marijuana for these patients. The Right to Try law already nullifies in practice some Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules that deny access to experimental treatments by terminally ill patients. Passage of HB195 and HB197 would take the first step toward nullifying federal marijuana prohibition in effect.

On March 7, the Senate approved HB195 by a 19-3 vote. It passed HB197 20-5. Both bills will now go to Gov. Gary Herbert’s desk for his consideration.

The proposal narrowly made it through the House. It passed HB195 by a 40-26 vote. But in a strange move, the House failed to approve HB197, effectively authorizing medical marijuana for qualifying terminally ill patients, but leaving no way for them to get medicinal cannabis in the state. The initial vote was 36-34. Bills must receive 38 votes to pass the Utah House. After a motion to reconsider was approved, Orem implored his colleagues to pass the legislation.

“This bill becomes the way to supply a genuine cannabis medicine for both those programs. We need to pass this bill if we want to have patients the ability to try both under right to try and under research,” Orem said.

The House narrowly approved HB195 by a 38-32 margin on the second try.

Despite the federal prohibition on marijuana, measures such as HB195 and HB197 remain perfectly constitutional, and the feds can do little if anything to stop them in practice.

LEGALITY

Under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) passed in 1970, the federal government maintains complete prohibition of marijuana. Of course, the federal government lacks any constitutional authority to ban or regulate marijuana within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.

Legalization of medical marijuana under Right to Try in Utah would remove one small layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana, but federal prohibition will remain on the books.

FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By curtailing state prohibition, Utah could sweep away a small basis the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.

Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly annual budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution either. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance.

A GROWING MOVEMENT

Utah could join a growing number of states simply ignoring federal prohibition, and nullifying it in practice.

Colorado, Washington state, Oregon and Alaska were the first states to legalize recreational cannabis, and California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts joined them after ballot initiatives in favor of legalization passed in November 2016. In January, Vermont became the first state to legalize marijuana through a legislative act.

With 29 states including New Hampshire allowing cannabis for medical use, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition anymore.

“The lesson here is pretty straightforward. When enough people say, ‘No!’ to the federal government, and enough states pass laws backing those people up, there’s not much the feds can do to shove their so-called laws, regulations or mandates down our throats,” Tenth Amendment Center founder and executive director Michael Boldin said.

WHAT’S NEXT

Gov. Herbert must sign or veto HB195 and HB197 within 20 days of passage or they will become law without signature. If you live in Utah, contact the governor and urge him to sign this legislation. You can find the governor’s contact information HERE.

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