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Utah Bill To Provide Protections To Medical Marijuana Patients

Emily Mullins

by Emily Mullins

February 22, 2024 01:45 pm ET Estimated Read Time: 3 Minutes
Fact checked by Kymberly Drapcho
Utah Bill To Provide Protections To Medical Marijuana Patients

In 2018, Utah officially joined forces with nearly three dozen other states around the country by legalizing medicinal marijuana. The measure passed with 53% of the popular vote, allowing for cannabis to be treated like any other prescription drug.

However, despite cannabis’s protected status, some localities in the state have refused to recognize the rights of medical marijuana patients. The city governments are discriminating against public employees who use medical marijuana, either by questioning them about their cannabis use or disciplining them for having a medical card.

A new bill working its way through the Utah State Legislature is targeting this clear violation of the law by threatening to cut funding from cities that engage in these harmful policies. Senate Bill 233 is being backed by Senate Minority Leader Luz Escamilla (D) and Senate Majority Leader Evan Vickers (R), who are in charge of marijuana legislation in the state.

“At the end of the day they are in violation of state law,” Sen. Escamilla said. “It’s very clear you don’t get to force people to tell you they’re using controlled substances as a prescription. This is a recommended, prescribed medication and they’re treating them differently. That’s what we’re trying to prevent.”

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The proposed bill wouldn’t change the laws drastically–rather, it would make some small changes that would create due process for people who feel they’ve been discriminated against. “We create a due process for people to go to the Labor Commission like they will do with any other type of discriminatory practices,” said Escamilla.

The bill unanimously passed the Senate with bipartisan support, but it is now facing some pushback.

“This bill would penalize state agencies and political subdivisions that try to enforce safety regulations against a medical marijuana card holder,” wrote Gayle Ruzicka, the president of the conservative group Eagle Forum. “This may allow a cardholder who may be impaired to work in positions, such as a heavy machine operator, a motor vehicle driver, or a child care provider. We must have exceptions and a way to protect the public.”

Despite this, Escamilla is willing to make adjustments to the Utah bill as needed. She also pointed out that certain provisions are in place targeting these concerns. Law enforcement officers are not allowed to use medical marijuana, and people in other fields with medical cards can be legally punished for being high on the job.

The bill must receive Senate approval once more before it moves to the House. After that, it will need to be signed by Utah Governor Spencer Cox before officially becoming law.

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