Senate Bill 89 FAQ


This is a short list of our most frequently asked questions about the Drug Policy Project of Utah (DPPU) and Senate Bill 89 (SB89). For more information about the Drug Policy Project of Utah please send us an email at

What happened to SB73? And why did SB89 die without being heard in the House?  

SB73 passed out of the State Senate by a 17-12 vote after being amended to alleviate the concerns of many critical stakeholders. When the bill arrived at the House Health and Human Service Committee (HHSC) on Monday March 7th, it experienced significant opposition. Ultimately, it was defeated in that committee on a 8-4 vote.

SB89 on the other hand passed out of  the State Senate by an 18-8 margin and was sent to HHSC where it was heard at the same committee meeting as SB73. During that meeting SB89 was amended and subsequently passed favorably out of committee on a 8-4 vote. Many of the amendments adopted in the 5th substitute of SB89 were requests that DPPU had made to the House Committee members via a letter sent on March 4th.

Even though the committee passed SB89 and sent it on to the House Floor for a full vote, time ran out for it to be debated and considered. It is unfortunate that the bill  didn’t make it to the floor of the House of Representatives because we are confident we had the votes to pass it out of the legislature. Late Wednesday evening we were working on improving this piece of  legislation by finding the $800,000 needed to fund the program and ensuring all stakeholders and voices were heard.

One important note: When it became clear that SB89 would not make it to the floor in time for passage, Representative Daw offered a new substitute of the bill that would have allowed for an increased level of research into the medical implications of medical cannabis in Utah. Unfortunately, the timing was just too close and even this substitute was unable to make it to the floor. 

What was the final list of conditions that would have been covered in the latest version of SB89?

Most of the conditions list from SB73 was incorporated into SB89, some not quite directly. The final conditions list included:

epilepsy or a similar condition that causes debilitating seizures;
Crohn's disease or a similar gastrointestinal disorder;
HIV, acquired immune deficiency syndrome or an autoimmune disorder;
multiple sclerosis or a similar condition that causes persistent and debilitating muscle spasms;
nausea and vomiting during chemotherapy;
muscle spasticity or a movement disorder;
complex regional pain syndrome;
peripheral neuropathy caused by diabetes;
post herpetic neuralgia;
pain related to HIV;
pain related to cancer;
pain occurring after and related to a stroke;
phantom limb pain;
post-traumatic stress disorder related to military service.

Other disease states that would have been covered indirectly through the Expanded Cannabis Based Medicine (CBM) access Group 1 and Group 2 physicians included:

Patients with a diagnosed malignancy or being provided palliative care for an incurable malignancy;
Hospice patients with less than six months to live;
Patients diagnosed with HIV or AIDS-associated anorexia and wasting syndrome;
Patients with incurable, catastrophic or rare conditions;
Patients with chronic pain, failed back syndrome or neuropathic pain;
Patients with intractable nausea;
Patients with multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, ALS or peripheral neuropathy;
Patients with HIV- or AIDS-peripheral neuropathy;

Why was only military-related PTSD included in SB89 directly?

Since language from SB73 was largely incorporated into SB89 only PTSD related to military service was included. As we detailed in our letter to members of the House Health and Humans Services Committee, recent research shows that cannabis is effective in treating the symptoms of PTSD. Patients with non-military related PTSD could, most likely, have been treated via the Expanded CBM access, but we will continue to work to get all PTSD, both related and unrelated to military service, included in subsequent versions of this bill.

Was vaporization included in SB89?

Yes, a Group 1 physician, defined as a physician treating terminal patients, may recommend that a patient vaporize CBM.  We believe that the intent was to include vaporization for all CBM, and DPPU will be working this summer to insure that vaporization is included in the 2017 version of the bill. 

How many physicians would have been able to recommend some form of cannabis based medicine under SB89? 

There are roughly 3,500 physicians across all specialties in Utah.  Under SB89 they could all have recommended medical cannabis to their patients after they completed specialized cannabis training required by in the bill.  A physician wasn’t required to get a medical cannabis certification, but all would have had the option to undergo cannabis specific training if they so desired.

Would SB89 have required synthetic THC and what levels of THC were included?

No, processing facilities would use the whole cannabis plant. No synthetic THC would have been used. The processed cannabis required in the legislation is similar to essential oils and would have contained the full range of cannabinoids.

There were different medical cannabis cards for patients who would be eligible for expanded cannabis based medicine (CBM) and for those who are eligible for low-THC cannabis. Low-THC cannabis products could not contain more than 5% THC (by weight) and must contain at least 5% CBD.  Further, the concentration of CBD to THC had be at least 10:1. 

Expanded CBM recommended by Group 2 physicians would have contained at least 50% CBD (by weight) with the remaining content being comprised of other cannabinoids, including THC. 

Why does a dispensary owner need $750,000 in liquid assets to apply for a dispensary license in SB89?

SB89 required a dispensary to have a $750,000 cash bond not $750,000 in liquid assets to apply for a cannabis dispensary license. This amount was suggested by the Division of Occupational Professional Licensing and is similar to requirements for traditional pharmacies. By comparison SB73 required $500,000 in liquid assets and did not define how long the cannabis dispensary owner had to keep that amount in liquid assets.

Did SB89 protect parents using medical cannabis from having their children removed by the Department of Child & Family Services?

Yes, SB89 included the following language:

“A peace officer or child welfare worker may not remove a child from the child's home or... take a child into custody under this section solely on the basis of... the possession or use of a cannabis product or a medical cannabis device in the home, if the use and possession of the cannabis product or medical cannabis device is in compliance with Title 26, Chapter 58, Medical Cannabis Act.”

Does SB89 protect people involved in a custody dispute? 

Yes, SB89 contains the following language:

“...the court may not discriminate against a parent because of the parent's possession or consumption of a cannabis product or a medical cannabis device, in accordance with Title 26, Chapter 58, Medical Cannabis Act…” 

Does SB89 contain a so called “affirmative defense”?

Yes, SB89 contains the following language:

“It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under this section that the controlled substance was... cannabis-based medicine recommended by a physician and the person holds a valid medical cannabis card under Title 26, Chapter 58, Cannabis-Based Medicine Act…”

Was SB89 written to undermine SB73? 

There has been much talk during the last few weeks surrounding this topic, but it is our honest experience, having worked closely with a number of legislators this session, that this assertion is just not true. Both SB73 and SB89 were debated and considered on their own content and merits and each was evaluated by the public, the legislature, and other involved groups. 

SB89 was written with patients very much in mind, and would have allowed access to medical cannabis as early as mid-2017. In our estimation 35,000 - 50,000 Utahns would have been able to participate in the program and gain much sought after relief.

SB89 was drafted through extensive discussion with the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Health, Financial Institutions, and Technology Services. They told each department what they needed from them and in turn those agencies assisted in drafting the language that comprised SB89. In all cases Representative Daw and Senator Vickers maintained a basic premise that if cannabis is a medicine, treat it like a medicine.

What happened to the 1:1 THC/CBD ratio that was proposed for SB89?

Amendment 2 offered to SB89 in the House Health and Human Services Committee allowed for a 1:1 THC/CBD ratio, but it did not pass and was not included in the final language of the bill. We will work with Representative Daw and other legislators to include this amendment in the 2017 legislation.

Why won’t we be involved  the proposed medical cannabis initiative? 

Any cannabis related ballot initiative will not be seen on the ballot until 2018 at the earliest, with implementation taking 2-3 years after a successful popular vote. If passed in the November 2018 election cycle, the legislature would then have to convene and approve enabling legislation. This process usually takes about four months, but due to the complex nature of this issue could take longer. Following that process, whatever program was voted for would then have to have implementation language adopted by all regulatory agencies involved and any of the various departments needed to ensure successful program implementation. This procedure could take up to or more than a year. Cannabis businesses could then begin to operate and start producing product. So, if the initiative were to pass in 2018, it would likely be mid-2020 before the program would be operational. If the initiative were to fail in 2018, another attempt would not be feasible until 2020, further delaying the process. That is why, at this point, DPPU is working closely with our legislators to develop a comprehensive medical cannabis bill to be passed during the 2017 Utah legislative session.

Here’s what we have to celebrate on March 31st at our Legislative Wrap-Up Party.

Despite our disappointment that we aren’t gearing up for the implementation of a medical cannabis program this year, many other constructive and important drug policy-related bills passed this session. They might not have had the attention that the medical cannabis bill got, but many of these pieces of legislation will have positive impacts for many Utahns.

During the 2016 session DPPU was tracking and at times providing vital input and research for the following list of bills that passed this session:

  1. HB058 - Hemp Extract Amendments( Representative Froerer)
  2. HB114 - Controlled Substance Reporting (Representative Ward)
  3. HB150 - Controlled Substance Prescription Notification (Representative Daw)
  4. HB192 - Opiate Overdose Response Act-Pilot Program and Amendments (Representative McKell)
  5. HB236 - Charitable Prescription Drug Recycling Program (Representative Froerer)
  6. HB238 - Opiate Overdose Response Act (Representative Spackman Moss)
  7. HB239 - Access to Opioid Prescription Information via Practitioner Data Management Systems (Representative McKell)
  8. HB240 - Opioid Overdose Response Act (Representative Eliason)
  9. HCR4 - Concurrent Resolution Declaring Drug Overdose Deaths to be a Public Health Emergency (Representative Moss)
  10. SCR11 - Concurrent Resolution Urging the Rescheduling of Marijuana (Senator Shiozawa)

What is next for us, DPPU, now that the 2016 legislative session has finished?  

In terms of medical cannabis, we will continue to work with legislators interested in establishing a medical cannabis program in  Utah. We are dedicated and believe the most effective and efficient path forward is via the legislative process. We are working with Representative Daw to begin planning for the 2017 legislative session. We will assist him in improving his bill (SB89) using data driven research and by engaging important stakeholders including patients, physicians, law enforcement, local businesses and other essential organizations. 

DPPU recently modified both our Vision and Mission statements to broaden our scope of activity to include more and varied drug policy related topics. Our website has all the information you need learn more about what we are working on in addition to medical cannabis.

Vision Statement:

We envision a Utah where drug policies are just for all people and reflect scientific research, current medical understanding, and evidenced-based practices in a way that best promotes positive outcomes for individuals, families, and communities.

Mission Statement:

Our mission is to inform and educate Utahns about important drug-related policies through research, data, and policy analysis.