UtahPolicy.com has learned that high-level talks are “accelerating” between opponents and backers of Prop. 2 as they work to find a legislative compromise. However, some of those discussions are generating a fair amount of pushback from groups on both sides of the issue.
Several sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the volatile nature of the issue, tell UtahPolicy.com that the discussions are aimed at possibly holding a special session after the November election to make changes to Prop. 2 if it passes, or legalize medical cannabis if the proposition fails at the ballot box.
However, those discussions are reportedly angering both proponents of Prop. 2 and backers of the initiative, so there’s still a long way to go before any middle ground can be reached. Sources indicate some of the concepts under consideration are angering those who oppose all forms of marijuana use and those who would like to push beyond medical cannabis to recreational use.
“Nothing has been agreed to yet,” said one source with knowledge of the discussions who spoke on background as they were not authorized to comment. They said some of the ideas that have been shared with stakeholders on either side are causing them to “recoil” because “nobody seems willing to give an inch” in the pursuit of a middle ground.
Sources stress that, if an agreement is reached, the resulting policy “won’t be foisted on anybody,” promising public hearings and full vetting of any medical cannabis policy. “We must have public hearings.”
The biggest roadblock to any compromise is likely to be how medical cannabis is regulated. One person involved in trying to find an agreement says regulation could be a “poison pill” that would sink any deal.
“We don’t want to see something put in place that looks like we’re legalizing medical marijuana, but has so many hoops in place that it’s impossible for patients to get it,” they said.
Another person with knowledge of the discussions says public opinion against Prop. 2 is beginning to turn, as Utahns overwhelmingly want medical cannabis available for patients, but they are uncomfortable with many of the provisions in the proposition.
“This is a good thing that we’re talking about making changes so we can get cannabis to those who need it while implementing the proper controls,” they said. “Prop. 2 does not do that.”
Compromise may not be so hard to come by. Responding to an email question last week regarding any portions of Prop. 2 backers would oppose changing, Connor Boyack, President of the Libertas Institute, said, “Like any new law—especially significant ones—Prop. 2 will surely be amended, refined, and tweaked. We don’t object to that, so long as the overall intent and patient access are preserved.”
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints opposes Prop. 2 but supports granting access to the product for patients who would benefit. The Church has called on the legislature to pass a medical cannabis law “before the end of the year.”Marty Stephens, director of community and government relations for the Church and former Utah House Speaker, did acknowledge that he has been discussing the issue with several interested parties, but would not confirm any specific talks.
“I have been involved in discussions about this issue, some newer and some older,” said Stephens. “I’ve been talking to people for months. Some of those discussions are more active than others.”
Stephens is quick to stress that there’s nothing imminent in the way of an agreement.
“Are we trying to find a solution? Yes. But there are still some big hurdles we need to tackle,” he said.