The Salt Lake Tribune reports…
Utah State lawmakers have released a third — and possibly final — draft of the Utah Medical Cannabis Act before meeting in a special session to overwrite Proposition 2.
The newest edition discards renter protections for medical marijuana patients and increases the initial number of available licenses for “cannabis pharmacies.”
The original version of the bill, which was unveiled in early October, was presented as a compromise that supporters and opponents of the cannabis ballot initiative could rally around. Top state officials also endorsed the legislation and vowed to hold a special session to pass the bill.
The legislation will replace Prop 2, the ballot measure that voters approved earlier this month.
The bill’s architects have no plans to revise it again before the Dec. 3 special session on cannabis, said Connor Boyack, a medical marijuana advocate who’s been deeply involved in writing the legislation.
“The intent is that this bill is the final product. However, if there’s any glaring problems or omissions, there’s obviously time to address them,” said Boyack, president of the Libertas Institute, a libertarian think tank.
Among other things, the legislation released Wednesday deletes a section on rental protections for cannabis patients. The last version of the bill barred landlords from refusing to rent to people who use the substance medicinally.
Already, medical cannabis opponents have zeroed in on this type of language as grounds for launching a legal challenge.
Critics of Proposition 2 this summer filed a lawsuit seeking to block the initiative from the ballot. The pleading — backed by wealthy developer and attorney Walter J. Plumb III — argued that requiring landlords to rent to medical marijuana users could force Latter-day Saints to violate their conscience and violate landlords’ property rights.
Boyack said scrapping this housing provision altogether could avoid some legal wrangling.
A landlord would only know about a tenant’s cannabis regimen if the person smoked or vaped the substance, and those activities weren’t covered by the housing protection anyway, he noted. Other forms of cannabis can be used covertly, he added.
“The provision is largely irrelevant because no landlord is going to have any idea if you’re consuming a few drops of oil or rubbing lotion on your knee,” Boyack said. “Coupled with the fact that Walter Plumb is trying to overturn the entire Utah Medical Cannabis Act based on that provision, it wasn’t worth it to keep.”
The basic structure for the program to dispense medical cannabis has stayed largely intact in the past couple months of negotiation. A state-centralized pharmacy would send cannabis shipments to local health departments for patients to pick up. The substance would also be available at privately-owned “cannabis pharmacies,” where licensed pharmacists would be on hand to advise patients on dosing and product type.
The updated draft does increase the number of private pharmacies from five to seven, with up to 10 allowed if the state central fill failed to get off the ground.
The list of medical conditions that could qualify a person for cannabis treatment have also remained largely unchanged, despite the revisions to the bill.
Other changes in the draft released Wednesday:
- The number of grower licenses was reduced from 15 to 10, although the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food can authorize another five. The cannabis cultivators are capped at 100,000 square feet of indoor capacity or four acres outdoors but can apply for increases;
- Patients under the age of 21 whose doctors recommend medical marijuana treatments must also seek approval from the compassionate use board, a group of medical providers who review special cases;
- The compassionate use board was enlarged from five members to seven, two of whom must be pediatricians;
- The updated bill stipulates that a cannabis grower or processor can be located in industrial or agricultural zones. Pharmacies can be situated in non-residential zones;
- People who incur a misdemeanor drug distribution charge after the effective date of the bill are disqualified from producing or dispensing cannabis.
The Legislature’s Health and Human Services Interim Committee will hold a public hearing on the bill Monday at 3 p.m. in the Senate Building at the state Capitol.
Here’s the draft act – all 187 pages of it !00004688