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Lawmakers overwhelmingly pass medical cannabis compromise bill

(Photo: Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — The controversial bill that replaces the Proposition 2 medical cannabis initiative sailed through both chambers of the state legislature, even though there were several attempts to either amend it or replace it with something else.

The first to voice her objection was Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake City. Her substitute bill would have kept most of the language of Prop. 2, but with some technical changes to it so it would better match state law.  She told legislators that they needed to “stay in their lane” and listen to the will of the voters who approved the ballot measure.

“Time and time again, in this same chamber, I have heard it argued that we shouldn’t be a ‘nanny state.’  That we need to let private citizens regulate their own lives and those of their families,” she said.

Chavez-Houck says she believes the Utah Medical Cannabis Act goes against this sentiment.

Other representatives say there is a public perception that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints may have undue influence over legislators. Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, says there have been people who believe that once the church president speaks, the thinking stops.

“I don’t think there are many legislators who believe that,” King says, adding, “if there are, they should get out of the legislature, soon.”

House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, responded to this by saying people from all different faiths were brought in to the discussion.

“Those who enjoy freedom of speech should be able to speak their minds and speak to the things they think impact their community and their congregants,” he says.

However, even some of the legislators who support the bill say it has major flaws.  Sen. Jacob Anderegg, R-Lehi, says it doesn’t address things like PTSD treatments, so they’re going to have to go back to the Capitol to fix those problems at a later date.

“I’m supportive of the bill, but this is far from being done.  In fact, I would imagine, just like our alcohol laws, we will have our annual medical cannabis bill,” he says.

The bill was approved by the House 60-13 and flew through the Senate by a 22 to 4 vote.