SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert said Thursday a special session could be on the agenda for lawmakers to implement fixes to Utah’s medical marijuana law, but most importantly, the federal government needs to act to reclassify the drug so states aren’t so hamstrung over the issue.
Herbert, in his monthly KUED Ch. 7, press conference with reporters, said the most urgent agenda item needing action is for the federal government to reclassify the drug so states don’t bump up against problems in providing marijuana for medical purposes.
The potential fixes may come in light of announcements by Salt Lake County Attorney Sim Gill and Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings last month expressing concern that county health department employees could be at risk for de facto drug dealing because the Drug Enforcement Administration classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug and illegal under the Controlled Substances Act.
Speaking on those concerns, Herbert said, “I think it is an unfounded fear.”
The law provides that local health departments dispense the drug in Utah when the state gets the program up and running, but multiple counties have expressed concerns.
Utah voters approved a medical marijuana program via Proposition 2 in the 2018 general election.
Shortly afterward, Utah lawmakers in a special session revamped the proposition with passage of a law, HB3001.
The compromise law included significant changes on how medical marijuana could be legally recommended, sold and consumed. The law allows for up to 10 licenses to be awarded for growers to provide the cannabis, while the distribution is controlled by the state. The law allows cannabis deliveries to be sent to local health departments for patient pickup.
The law requires the program to be running by March 1, 2020.
On the subject of Utah’s desire for a Medicaid waiver, Herbert said the state is continuing to work with the U.S. Department of Health to push approval for a Utah specific program.
Herbert noted that Medicaid, according to a colleague of his, is the “budget buster” of all time, and wished the state could implement its own program free from the federal government pursestrings.