Gov. Gary Herbert has called the Utah Legislature into session Monday to take up a medical cannabis bill that could replace Proposition 2.
Herbert’s announcement came shortly after noon Friday and listed several issues that lawmakers would be considering.
First and foremost, legislators will vote on the Utah Medical Cannabis Act, a bill that officials, Prop 2 opponents and medical marijuana advocates crafted in recent months and pitched as a compromise. On Monday, lawmakers will decide whether to overwrite the ballot initiative by passing the medical cannabis legislation.
Prop 2, which voters approved earlier this month by about 53 percent, will take effect Saturday. If the replacement bill clears the Legislature by a two-thirds majority, it could become law right away.
Herbert also assigned state leaders to consider “mechanisms for funding ongoing construction” of the new state prison in northwest Salt Lake City. Thirdly, lawmakers will look at a measure to adjust state driver licenses to comply with federal identification requirements.
The special session is slated to begin at 10 a.m. Monday.
Also during the session, a few lawmakers could be offering up alternatives to the negotiated cannabis legislation. For instance, Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake City, is preparing legislation that would largely retain Prop 2 but make some technical changes.
Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, plans to enter two bills: one patterned after the ballot initiative and a second that would call on the state to issue patients medical cards that would decriminalize cannabis possession. Patients would then be free to seek out marijuana treatment as they see fit.
House Speaker Greg Hughes said he’s also heard rumblings that some lawmakers want to delay the proposition’s “affirmative defense” provision, which would give cannabis patients legal cover before the full marijuana program is up and running.
But he said he’s optimistic that both sides will ultimately get behind the negotiated cannabis act.
“I’m hoping that … we get back to this common ground,” he said.