Legal weed is finally coming to Utah, but only for a select few. After years of watching neighboring Colorado and Nevada enact medical and eventually adult-use cannabis reform legislation, Beehive State Governor Gary Herbert signed three medical marijuana bills late last week, allowing the restricted use of non-smokable marijuana products for terminally ill patients.
According to local Fox13, Herbert added his John Hancock to House Bills 195 and 197, as well as Senate Bill 130, legalizing limited medical marijuana access, growth, and sales, respectively.
The first piece of cannabis legislation, HB195, gives terminally ill Utahns with less than six months to live the "right to try" medical cannabis through a doctor's recommendation. But since HB195 is Utah's first medical marijuana legalization law, the state does not have plans to open any dispensaries, essentially pushing terminal patients to buy their bud from the black market or nearby legal weed states.
To try and shore up Utah's lack of locally-grown cannabis, HB197 was introduced as a companion bill to HB195. After being signed into law on Friday, the legislation will allow the state Department of Agriculture and Food to contract the production and storage of approved marijuana products from local businesses, with plans to eventually offer terminal patients the right to try cannabis without having to deal with shady dealers or drive out of state.
In his last act of legislative cannabis reform last week, Herbert approved SB130, allowing the sale of CBD oils with state-mandated testing, labeling, and licensing. Like a number of states where legislation has lagged behind trends in health and wellness, Utah retailers have been selling industrial hemp-derived CBD products for years, but will now have local standards and legal backing to sell the non-psychoactive cannabinoid.
While the three medical cannabis legalization bills are a significant step for a state known for its prohibitionist tendencies, marijuana activists and advocates are not content with the limited reform efforts. Some are even calling for a comprehensive medical marijuana program to be voted on by state residents in the upcoming November election.
With the limited "right to try" and CBD hemp oil laws now on the books, cannabis advocates worry that voters will no longer see a need for November's comprehensive medical marijuana ballot measure. Unlike the recently-approved bills, the state's proposed medical marijuana ballot question would legalize most non-smokable forms of cannabis for a number of qualifying conditions.
No matter the next step, though, Utah's recently passed cannabis reform bills are a positive step for the Beehive State, where recent polls have shown that over 75% of adults support completely legalizing medical marijuana.
Follow Zach Harris on Twitter