Gov. Gary R. Herbert, the Republican governor of Utah.

Medill DC

Utah Gov. Will Not Support MMJ Ballot Initiative

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert will not support the Utah Patients Coalition-led medical cannabis ballot initiative, saying that the legislature’s HB.197 “promotes medical science and public safety in ways absent from [the] initiative petition,” according to a KUTV report. The legislature-approved bill requires the state Department of Agriculture and Food to cultivate and process cannabis for academic or medical research by Jan. 1, 2019 but does not create a comprehensive program.

“I fully support the science-supported use of substances that, under medical supervision, can improve lives. Consequently, I support efforts to allow medical researchers to better understand the medical properties of cannabis. That, in turn, will allow physicians and pharmacists to prescribe and dispense cannabis as a controlled substance in accordance to the highest standards of medical science. Our new law, HB 197, is an important first step in this effort.” – Herbert, in a press release, via KUTV

Advocates announced earlier this week that they have had 237,000 petition signatures verified by both county clerks and the Lt. Governor’s office – far exceeding the 160,000 required to put the issue to voters in November.

Herbert said the initiative, if approved, “would potentially open the door for recreational use” and the consequences of the initiative would “do more harm than good.”

In a response posted to Twitter, Campaign Director DJ Schanz called Herbert’s comments “another example of what Utahns have grown tired of: politicians standing between patients and their physicians.”

“Saying the most conservatively drafted initiative in the entire country would ‘potentially’ open the door for recreational use is a scare tactic that has no basis in truth. Neither the Legislature nor Governor should undermine the clear will of voters as demonstrated in over a dozen public polls. Utahns are ready to vote on this and set aside the misguided positions of elected officials who are apparently comfortable with criminalizing sick and suffering Utahns.” – Schanz in a statement

When advocates had announced they had reached the signature threshold, Herbert did not immediately say he would not support the initiative but warned that the “devil [is] in the details.”

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