Utah Bill Addresses Expungement, Patient-Employee Rights

Utah lawmakers will consider a bill that would allow cannabis patients to expunge low-level cannabis offenses and clarify patient/employee rights when it comes to the state’s new medical cannabis program.

Full story after the jump.

A bill introduced in Utah would allow some medical cannabis patients to expunge prior low-level cannabis convictions, clarify when police and prosecutors could go after someone with metabolites from cannabis use in their system, and address how employers handle employees who use cannabis legally as patients, Fox 13 Now reports. The proposal would also remove requirements that medical cannabis be sold in “blister packs.”

Senate Majority Leader Evan Vickers (R) said the Legislature is trying to “streamline the process for implementation” of the bill. He said the language addressing cannabis metabolites is an effort to protect individuals who may have the metabolite in their system but are not impaired.

“With cannabis, you can have metabolite in your system for a long time, but it may not be active. But there is methods to be able to determine whether the metabolite is active or not. Of course, if you’re impaired, you’re impaired.” – Vickers, to Fox 13 Now

The employment provisions included in the law are another safeguard for patients because, while lawmakers envisioned medical cannabis – and CBD – being treated the same as other prescribed controlled substances, it’s not always the case, Desiree Hennessy, director of the Utah Patients Coalition, explained in the report. She described the situation as “employer roulette.”

Some drug tests only test for the presence of cannabinoids and do not make a distinction between THC and CBD.

“The law is now saying, ‘Yeah you can use medical cannabis and you’re no longer a criminal,'” she said to Fox 13 Now. “And then you go to work and they say, ‘Yeah, but if you do it you’re fired.’

The measure would also allow medical cannabis to be sold in child-proof, opaque containers – as is the case in most other states – rather than blister packs.

Vickers said that while officials plan on having the program up-and-running by March, he suggested that, at first, there would be “some distribution” but probably not “full-blown distribution.”

The state Department of Health announced the locations for the state’s 14 dispensaries earlier this month; eight of those locations are permitted to open after March 1, while the remaining must wait until July 1. Lawmakers had initially approved a plan for county health departments to distribute medical cannabis but scrapped the strategy after concerns that officials could face federal charges for their role in the system.

The Legislature-approved law replaced the law approved by voters in 2018. That legislative action was upheld by the Utah Supreme Court in a case brought by the activist organization The People’s Right.

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