In Utah, lawmakers are expected to meet today to vote on a new set of medical cannabis laws. If new laws are put into place today, they will replace the medical marijuana initiative passed by voters last month. The possibility that this will happen has already sparked an ongoing controversy in the state.
Utah Lawmakers Plan to Draft a “Compromise Bill”
Last month, voters in Utah approved Proposition 2, which legalized medical marijuana. The proposal won with a 53 percent majority. It went into effect this month.
Yet despite the popular support of the bill, and although the laws just went into effect, it appears that lawmakers are pressing ahead with plans to overwrite the proposition.
Interestingly, these plans were in the works even before voters had a chance to vote on Prop 2. In fact, lawmakers and other influential groups in Utah made clear that if Prop. 2 won in the popular elections, they would hold a special legislative session on Dec. 3.
Additionally, these leaders made clear that the point of the Dec. 3 meeting is to push through a “compromise bill” that would replace the medical marijuana laws established in Prop 2.
And now that Dec. 3 is here, media sources have so far reported that the meeting is going ahead as planned. As per the AP: “Utah lawmakers are expected to meet Monday and pass changes to a voter-approved ballot measure legalizing medical marijuana.”
Utah’s Medical Marijuana Controversy
Today’s planned meeting is at the heart of an ongoing controversy. In fact, a group of medical cannabis advocates recently threatened to file a lawsuit if Prop. 2 is overwritten by today’s special legislative session.
The potential lawsuit focuses on a few key issues. For starters, advocates claim that overwriting Prop. 2 immediately after winning a popular vote flies in the face of the democratic process. Many interpret such a move as ignoring the voice of the people.
Closely related to this concern is the role played by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), commonly known as the Mormon Church.
The Mormon Church has been one of the most outspoken opponents of Prop. 2. Importantly, roughly two-thirds of Utah’s population is Mormon. And the majority of Utah’s lawmakers are Mormon, too.
Earlier this year, the Mormon Church held a press conference to voice its opposition regarding Prop. 2. Then, church leaders sent an email to Mormons in Utah encouraging them to vote against the initiative.
On top of all this, medical marijuana advocates claim that the Mormon Church is largely responsible for the so-called “compromise bill” and for today’s potential legislative session. This bill, advocates say, dramatically changes the system established by Prop. 2.
“It’s not a compromise bill, it’s a replacement bill,” attorney Rocky Anderson told High Times. Anderson represents medical marijuana advocates in the potential lawsuit.
“It sets up an enormous state bureaucracy. It allows for far fewer dispensaries that will be less accessible to patients. They’re also dramatically reducing the number of doctors that will be able to prescribe medical marijuana and changing and reducing the conditions that would qualify patients to get medical marijuana.”
Mormon Church Exerting Too Much Influence?
Advocates are concerned that the Mormon Church is overstepping its bounds. They claim that the Mormon Church is dictating state law without regard for the democratic process.
“We’ve seen adamant opposition by the church,” Anderson told High Times. “At this point, I think we’ve got clear evidence that the Church of LDS has interfered in the functions of the state of Utah.”
He added: “It’s so blatantly undemocratic. I think it could fairly accurately be characterized as a theocracy rather than a democracy.”