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Gov. Herbert signs medical marijuana compromise into law

Ben Lockhart and Dennis Romboy,

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SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Legislature on Monday signaled overwhelming support for a sweeping medical marijuana compromise bill fraught with complexity and political risk, but which nonetheless enjoyed broad support among key groups both for and against Proposition 2.

During a special legislative session lawmakers spent weeks preparing for, both the Utah Senate and House of Representatives voted by large margins to pass a wide-ranging medical marijuana bill replacing the ballot initiative voters approved Nov. 6.

Following about two hours of debate on the House floor, the bill was approved by a 60-13 vote. Just one Republican, Rep. Michael Kennedy of Alpine, voted against the bill, while every Democrat present voted against it.

After more than 90 minutes of consideration on the Senate floor, the bill sailed through with a 22 to 4 vote. Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, expressed some concerns with the compromise but voted for it. Besides him, all Democrats present opposed the bill while Republicans broke uniformly in favor of it.

Passing with more than two-thirds support allows the new bill to go into effect immediately, said Senate President Wayne Niederhauser. Gov. Gary Herbert announced Monday evening he had signed the bill, saying Utah "now has the best-designed medical cannabis program in the country."

"Working with trained medical professionals, qualified patients in Utah will be able to receive quality-controlled cannabis products from a licensed pharmacist in medical dosage form. And this will be done in a way that prevents diversion of product into a black market.

"This is an example of how collaboration makes Utah the best-managed state in the nation. Proponents and opponents came together to honor the voice of Utah voters who compassionately stood up for Utah patients. They provided for access to medical cannabis, while closing loopholes that have created significant problems in other states that have legalized medical cannabis."