SALT LAKE CITY – From a legal standpoint, medical cannabis is meant to be treated like any other prescription controlled substance in Utah.
Voters called for it when they passed Proposition 2, and the Utah state legislature has made this official policy in a series of bills that have regulated medical cannabis.
Thus, several conservative lawmakers were visibly furious to discover on Wednesday that some local governments were refusing to recognize medical cannabis as a controlled legal substance, especially with regard to government employees.
“The original intention of the legislature was always not to punish someone for being sick or for using medication correctly as prescribed,” said Sen. Daniel Thatcher, of R-West Valley City.
This is an issue that the Utah Patients Coalition, which advocates for medical cannabis patients, has been fighting for some time. The matter finally came to a head during Wednesday’s hearing of the Utah State Legislature’s Interim Government Operations Committee.
“We are seeing a small group of cities that are banning their employees from continuing to use medical cannabis even after it has been recommended by their doctor and has gone through the appropriate legal channels,” said the executive director of Utah Patients Coalition, Desiree Hennessy, in an interview with FOX. 13.
The problem has been particularly pronounced for first responders. Police and firefighters have obtained medical cannabis cards, but then find themselves in trouble with their own city.
âThe mere presence of a medical cannabis card is enough for them to be removed from their post,â Hennessy said.
The committee supported a bill that would double the state’s policy that medical cannabis should be treated like any other controlled substance. Government employees obviously cannot use medical cannabis at work or be debilitated, but neither could they be punished for being a legal user.
âIt’s almost like common sense tells you that if it is legal to use marijuana for medical purposes, it would be legal to have a card that says you can use marijuana. You would then not have to fear retaliation from an employer, let alone a subdivision of state. employer, âsaid representative Phil Lyman, R-Blanding.
The bill will only apply to civil servants. However, Senate Majority Leader Evan Vickers of R-Cedar City, who oversaw Utah’s medical cannabis legislation for the Senate Republican majority, said the intention had always been to encourage private employers to take the same approach with their employees.
“I would like to see the private industry, if they have policies around controlled substances then they follow the same law with cannabis,” Senator Vickers told FOX 13.
But like the vaccination warrants, Republican legislative leaders have been reluctant to dictate to private companies what they can and cannot do. Hennessy said she would like to see more private employers adopt pro-cannabis policies.
âThe pendulum swings back and forth, doesn’t it? There’s an obstacle there,â she said. “The only thing we can predict that would solve the private employee problem is the education and experience of having employees who use medical cannabis.”