History of CBD and Cannabis: Utah
It was an unseasonably chilly day when police knocked on the door of Utah gubernatorial candidate Mike Weinholtz. After a brief search, officials confiscated a small amount of marijuana from his wife Donna, who took it in order to cope with degenerative pain and arthritic spinal conditions.
Although federal officials opted to drop all charges, local enforcers ultimately charged her with misdemeanor possession, resulting in a large fine and probation. All around the state, this scandal resulted in conflicting sentiments within the LDS church, political leadership, law enforcement, and broader communities.
Ultimately, the conversation around Donna’s use of cannabis served as a premonitory warning for the legalization of medical marijuana in a 2018 ballot initiative. Despite the highly conservative nature of the legislature and state residents, many are now warming to the idea of an increasingly decriminalized and legalized cannabis landscape.
Cannabis, CBD, and Utah
In 1915, Utah became the first state to ban marijuana for all purposes. In fact, the plant couldn’t even be prescribed by doctors to qualified patients, making it the strictest prohibition law in the country at the time.
In addition to the influence of pious religious leadership, many LDS communities were worried that young Mormon men would desert the faith if they indulged in cannabis. Other historians note that Utah was attempting to strengthen intrastate relations by doggedly following the legal advancements made in neighboring intermountain states.
Since the early twentieth century, laws and the degree of enforcement concerning cannabis possession have remained largely the same. Even now, carrying trace amounts of cannabis can result in misdemeanor fines, jail time, and a criminal record that bars users from certain employment opportunities.
However, there has been some progress towards decriminalization over the past few years. The rising popularity of CBD treatments, as well as all the recent positive research regarding cannabis’ health benefits, have started to shift public sentiment.
In 2014, Utah became one of the first states to pass new regulations concerning CBD in response to the federal Farm Bill. Governor Gary Herbert signed House Bill 105 into law, allowing for the legal use, distribution, and consumption of low THC CBD oil.
Currently, the law only applies to medical patients with very specific qualifying medical conditions. Nevertheless, the legal recognition that CBD may be beneficial for neurological conditions represented a landmark change in the normally stolid legislature.
The new CBD law motivated many failed medical cannabis legislation, most of which never made it past the health committee. In 2015, the Republican Senator Mark Madsen proposed a bill within the very last days of the legislative session that would set up a regulatory framework for medical cannabis.
Ultimately, the bill just barely failed to make it out of Senate since it was so rushed. It would take two more years for another House Bill to sanction medical marijuana for terminally ill patients.
In 2018 Utah’s Proposition 2, known as the Medical Marijuana Initiative (2018) asked the Utah electorate to determine whether patients with specific conditions or illness should have legal access to medical marijuana. Utah voters answered with a yes.
On November 30, 2018, in defiance of the will of the voting public Governor Gary Herbert formally called for a special session for legislators to make significant changes to Proposition 2. On December 3, 2018, the legislature passed and the governor signed House Bill 3001, the Utah Medical Cannabis Act, into law. This change to Proposition 2 would pervert many of the original intentions of the proposition, including limiting who could access medical cannabis, what forms it could take and where it could be obtained.
Two lawsuits were filed— one brought by The People’s Right and one brought by TRUCE and the EAU—concerning the legislature’s move to replace Proposition 2 with HB 3001. On September 16, 2019, during a special session, the Utah legislature unanimously passed Senate Bill 1002, which made amendments to the medical marijuana law. While the changes did not entirely satisfy the intentions of proposition 2, many of the modifications made through Bill 1002 softened the impact of HB 3001.