Utah Senate tentatively approves medical marijuana bill

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Utah came one step closer to legalizing medical marijuana, as the state senate passed Senate Bill 73.

In a slim 15-13 margin, the senate voted to approve the medicinal use of edibles, extracts, and oils.  It still has to be voted on one more time by the Senate, in a vote expected to take place sometime this week.  SB 73 would allow qualifying medical patients to use cannabis in edible, extract and oil form to treat ailments.

Sponsored by Senator Mark Madsen (R), the bill has support from both sides of the aisle, but is lacking certain crucial support.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is still opposed to the measure, but has softened their stance in recent weeks.  Madsen had changed some parts of the bill to increase support, but the church still resisted.

In a statement on Monday, the Church cited the need to “enable the use of marijuana extracts to help people who are suffering, without increasing the likelihood of misuse at a time when drug abuse in the United States is at epidemic proportions, especially among youth.”

The bill also faces competition from SB 89, a similar, but more stripped down version, permitting patients to use cannabis extract to treat certain medical conditions.  Additionally, the Republican representative from Cedar City who proposed SB 89, Sen. Evan Vickers, has said it wouldn’t be practical to merge the two bills, though it would be possible.

One opponent to SB 73, Sen. Allen Christensen (R) from Ogden, told Fox News 13, “There exists absolute evidence that whole plant marijuana cures everything from ingrown toenails to cancer. Of course, all of this evidence is anectodal. Nothing is scientifically proven.”

With such a close vote on SB 73, medical marijuana advocates plan to push ahead with a ballot initiative.  “It’s looking like we may have to,” said Christine Stenquist, a medical marijuana patient and supporter of the ballot initiative. “Because we’re not getting much of our voices heard right now.”

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