On Friday lawmakers announced three new bills to help lay the groundwork for the possibility of medical marijuana in Utah in the future.
The new bills come from Republican State Senators Evan Vickers and Brian Shiozawa, and Representative Brad Daw. All three focus on laying the groundwork for medical marijuana legalization in the future, rather than trying to pass a medical-use policy now.
Representative Daw explained their reasoning.
"Rather than lead with the policy, which essentially puts the legislature essentially in the position of playing doctor, by decreeing which prescriptions are available for treatment, we’re going the route of saying: scientific community, medical community, you tell us," Daw said.
This year’s bills would reclassify marijuana from a schedule 1 to a schedule 2 drug, to enable it to be studied in medical settings, create a framework for how institutions would do those studies, and decide how it will be distributed in the state.
Part of the reason lawmakers said they’re taking this calculated approach is because drug policy is split between the state and federal government. Senator Vickers noted that it’s unclear what the Trump Administration’s stance will be on medical cannabis.
"We think it’s prudent to continue to move forward as if there would be a policy and try to determine who in the state would run that," Vickers said.
Representative Gage Froerer, who has worked on past marijuana legislation, said this year they’re taking a pragmatic approach.
"A lot of the times in the state of Utah we take small steps to get to the end of the road. I really think that we’re taking the proper steps," Froerer said.
Steps, he says, needed to move something forward this year, versus nothing.