Utah could seek a ‘wavier’ from the feds to allow pharmacies to dispense medical marijuana

Look for this idea to come forward as Utah GOP state leaders deal with any changes to the current medical marijuana initiative – or Prop 2.

What if federal Justice Department officials were asked to give some kind of “waiver,” or further guarantee to selected Utah pharmacists, so that they, in turn, could provide doctor-recommended dosages to truly sick people who need the now-illegal drug to help them through seizures, pain relief, chemotherapy, or other approved treatments?

Long the sticking point among lawmakers and other Utah medical leaders is that medical marijuana laws in other states – around 30 have some kind of medical marijuana use – allow the state-licensed dispensaries to become loose cannons.

Such dispensaries can give medical marijuana to just about anyone who has a good reason to use it. While not recreational use, in some states medical marijuana has been close to it.

That’s one of the fears by the expanded group of Utah civic and religious leaders – including the LDS Church – that came together Thursday to oppose Prop 2 – which they see as way too loose in its dispensing of medical marijuana.

Proponents of Prop 2 say their initiative is a good first step – that it gets needed benefits of medical marijuana to really sick and suffering people quickly – and does so in ways that opponents of its therapeutic use can’t stall or hinder.

You can read the initiative here.

UtahPolicy.com has spoken to Utah leaders who have been briefed by former House Speaker Marty Stephens, the current LDS Church’s government affairs office, or lobbyist, and others who oppose Prop 2.

And one idea being floated about by opponents to Prop 2 – which include many more folks than just LDS Church leaders – is that a Utah medical marijuana law could be written that could allow for federal “waivers,” or some other kind assurances, made to local Utah pharmacists who want to participate in a formal medical marijuana dispensing process.

Medical doctors who wanted to prescribe medical marijuana could be licensed to do so, and a distribution process could be formulated that had licensed pharmacists providing the medical marijuana.

The whole process could thus be better controlled than under the current Prop 2 – which follows basically what other states have done in the growing, prescription and dispensing of medical marijuana.

Utah’ process could be unique, a model, if you will, UtahPolicy.com is told, to what other states could do as long as federal law enforcement officials somehow approved and agreed not to prosecute licensed doctors and pharmacists who prescribed and dispensed medical marijuana to truly-needy sick folks.

“Look, I imagine that a ton of people (backing Prop 2) would protest against that” kind of solution, one leader recently told UtahPolicy.com.

But it could be a compromise that may be acceptable to opponents of Prop 2 – who as of last week were organizing to defeat the initiative in the Nov. 6 vote.

Meanwhile, a legislative special session before that vote is unlikely, UtahPolicy.com is told, mainly because GOP Gov. Gary Herbert is the only guy who can call the Legislature into a special session and he seems to be sitting on the sideline – at least for now.

Herbert, who has said he personally opposes Prop 2, was not one of the signees to the letter of opposition put together for Thursday’s anti-Prop. 2 event.

Prop. 2 has been popular in Utah throughout the group’s signature-gathering efforts over the last year.

The most recent UtahPolicy.com Dan Jones & Associates poll on the initiative found that 72 percent of Utahns “strongly” or “somewhat” support the initiative, only 25 percent oppose it, and 2 percent didn’t know.

Sixty percent of Republicans support it, 95 percent of Democrats support it, and 77 percent of political independents support it.

Before Thursday, LDS Church leaders had kind of waffled in their opposition, saying the Utah Medical Association’s opposition made sense and releasing a legal analysis put together by the church’s private legal firm pointing out Prop 2 flaws.

Jones found in his most recent survey that 59 percent of “very active” Mormons support Prop 2, while only 38 percent opposed it.

But with the church’s now official and strong opposition, those numbers will likely change – especially after faithful Utah Mormons got emails from their church leaders asking them to vote no on the initiative.