Medical marijuana advocates say pending Utah bills fall short

WASHINGTON TERRACE — During the 2016 legislative session, Utah lawmakers will consider at least two medical marijuana bills. But members of the Drug Policy Project of Utah say neither measure gets the job done.

Turner Bitton, president of the board of directors for the nonprofit group that was founded two years ago, said it now boasts about 4,000 members but only a small percentage pay dues. About 30 people attended “Politics vs. Patients” Thursday, DPPU’s medical cannabis forum held at the Pleasant Valley Library.

The two draft bills in process at the state Legislature differ significantly. Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Saratoga Springs seeks whole plant access, while Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City and Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem have teamed on a Cannabidiol-only (CBD) bill.

Vickers is a pharmacist by profession and Daw is a board member of S.M.A.R.T. Utah County, a coalition battling substance abuse and misuse.

“We don’t like either one of these bills,” DPPU member Kathy Dennis told the audience. “We’ve been studying bills from all over the country ... to see if we can turn them around and make them better. But I’d rather not pass a bad bill, because it will take a long time to turn that bad bill around.”

Madsen also sponsored medical marijuana legislation in 2015. But SB259 failed in Utah’s 29-member Senate by one vote.

Many DPPU members have battled life-threatening diseases and chronic pain, and some of their personal stories appear on the nonprofit’s website.

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