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A Very Special Session

Guv says it’s possible to get medical cannabis up and running in Utah, despite the fact reaching a compromise has long proved difficult for state lawmakers.


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  • Via KUED
Gov. Gary Herbert dismissed the idea that legislators would be unable to cooperate in a post-midterms special session to reach a compromise on medical cannabis and create a workable, functioning system for dispensing and acquiring the drug in Utah.

“Not only are they skeptical, but they’re cynical, and that probably is just part of a group in society that are always cynical about anything and everything,” Herbert said of the doubters. “People have got together in good faith. Again, I think most people are motivated by the fact that there is a product out there that many believe will help to alleviate pain and suffering, and that’s the driving force here.”

Herbert made the comments Thursday morning at his monthly news conference at KUED Channel 7. He reiterated that he’d call a special session after the Nov. 6 midterm elections, regardless of whether Proposition 2—the medical cannabis ballot initiative—passes or fails. “The frustration of the people is certainly evident here,” he said, explaining the reasoning the initiative made its way onto the ballot.

“The good news is that people have come together on this,” Herbert continued. “This is a classic example of people on different sides of an issue saying, ‘You know what, we have common ground, let’s work together, let’s come up with a better piece of legislation.’”

The governor railed against the federal government for continuing to classify cannabis as a Schedule I drug, making it very difficult to study its effects. He said that policy poses unique challenges for state lawmakers as they try to create a medical cannabis program for a substance still deemed illegal at the federal level. “We have problems with, how do you pay for it? ‘Cash and carry,’” Herbert said, mentioning that carrying large sums of money around could lead to more crime. “There’s issues out there that aren’t going to be resolved with this initiative that we want to be able to work on over the next year or two.”

He acknowledged that medical cannabis has its fair share of opponents, not just in regards to the compromise bill or the ballot initiative. Asked if he’s concerned those Utahns might seek to undermine legislators’ efforts, Herbert said, “Freedom of speech is freedom of speech, and so I can’t answer for 3.2 million people out there in Utah. They might have a difference of opinion, and they’ll exercise that right of speech and lobby their legislators, I’m sure.”

Herbert said some individuals had left the compromise talks because they’re adamantly for or against medical cannabis. “That’s just kind of life. But I can tell you that there’s been a sincere, I think good-faith effort to come together, find common ground, and we will have a special session one way or the other,” Herbert pledged. “It’s gonna happen. I’m the one that calls it.”