Lawmakers, LDS Church, Prop. 2 backers reach deal on medical marijuana

After weeks of discussion, Utah lawmakers, LDS Church officials, and Prop. 2 backers have reached an agreement for a compromise on medical marijuana. The agreement will be announced at a noon press conference on Thursday.

The compromise comes after weeks of tense negotiations led by House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper.

Legislators were told a compromise had been reached on Wednesday afternoon, but no details were given.

Sources involved in the negotiations indicated they were rushing to get something in place by Thursday afternoon. The Thursday deadline was important as both proponents and opponents were launching their campaigns in earnest with media buys and campaigns, pushing negotiations past the point of no return ahead of November’s election.

Adding to the urgency to get something in place before Thursday afternoon is the upcoming semi-annual General Conference of the LDS Church to be held Saturday and Sunday. Had a deal not been reached, there’s a high probability that LDS Church leaders might have used that forum to ramp up their opposition to Prop. 2. The Church has come out in favor of medical marijuana as long as proper regulatory controls are in place.

The medical marijuana issue is one that inflames passions on both sides. So, why did Hughes decide to take on such a herculean task?

“I could hear common ground out there,” he said. “We’ve been talking past each other. I wanted to see if we could find a way to get some agreement.”

Apparently, that agreement was found.

Wednesday’s final negotiations were nearly derailed following erroneous reports that a deal had been reached Tuesday night. Hughes told that he was trying to foster an attitude of trust among the parties, which was difficult because both proponents and opponents were inclined not to trust each other on such a highly charged issue.

Several lawmakers who were told about the compromise position expressed concern that a deal on medical marijuana had been negotiatied by leadership, but no details on what was agreed to were given.

Hughes said Wednesday morning before negotiations had been completed that there is a perception that this was done in secret, which he said could not be farther from the truth.

“There will be a narrative that these were secret meetings, that we excluded patients from this process,” he said. “That is not true. Patient activists have been the tip of the spear on this, and we would not be where we are now without their work.”

Hughes also said that the deal to be announced on Thursday will simply be a starting point.

“This will be modified and changed as we get more eyes on it. There will be public hearings on this. It’s going to be a very public process,” he said.