Utah Lawmakers Propose Funding Cuts for Cities Ignoring Medical Marijuana Laws

In a bid to address discrimination against medical marijuana patients, bipartisan lawmakers in Utah are pushing forward with legislation that could withhold funding from cities failing to recognize cannabis as a legitimate medical treatment.

Utah citizens voted in favor of medical cannabis in 2018, with over half supporting its use. However, despite state legislative measures treating medical cannabis akin to prescribed medication, some local governments are reportedly discriminating against public employees who are registered medical marijuana patients.

Senate Minority Leader Luz Escamilla, a Democrat, asserts that certain cities are violating state law by treating medical cannabis users differently and even disciplining them for their patient status. To tackle this, Escamilla supports Senate Bill 233 (SB 233), which not only aims to adjust the state’s medical marijuana program but also proposes cutting funding to cities engaging in such discrimination.

SB 233, backed by both Escamilla and Senate Majority Leader Evan Vickers, a Republican, holds significant weight in Utah’s legislature. Medical marijuana advocates, including the Utah Patients Coalition, endorse the bill, emphasizing its role in safeguarding patients’ rights and combating discrimination.

Despite bipartisan support, SB 233 faces opposition, notably from the Utah Eagle Forum, expressing concerns about public safety and potential impairment risks posed by medical marijuana cardholders in certain roles. However, Escamilla clarifies that safeguards against on-the-job impairment exist, and Utah’s laws prohibit certain professionals, like police officers, from registering as patients due to firearm laws.

Addressing objections, Escamilla expresses willingness to negotiate and amend the bill, including specifying the percentage of funding cities could lose for discriminating against medical marijuana patients.

Before SB 233 can become law, it requires final approval in the Senate and subsequent endorsement from the Utah House of Representatives, followed by potential approval from Republican Governor Spencer Cox.


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