Utah currently allows cannabidiol to be used by those with severe epilepsy, as long as they obtain it from other states. Pictured: A dose of Colorado-made cannabidiol oil. (Joe Amon, Denver Post file)

Utah medical marijuana legislation unlikely to move forward this year

Governor says he backs the decision of lawmakers, who say they will focus on research this year rather than making any policy decisions

SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert is backing the decision by state lawmakers to focus on research about the impact of medical marijuana for certain medical conditions rather than moving forward with broad legalization.

Herbert said Friday that the move is the right one because the medical community has concerns and there isn’t enough science to show marijuana is an effective and safe treatment.

“Unfortunately, we have just a lot of anecdotal stories, which I don’t discount,” the Republican governor said in a news conference, “But what works for you may not work for me, and vice versa.”

Herbert said he’s concerned about ignoring federal marijuana laws. He says if states and the U.S. Attorney’s Office ignore the laws, then the laws should be changed.

The governor also said that any medical marijuana program should be limited so the drug could only be prescribed by a doctor and distributed by pharmacists.

Utah lawmakers have decided to scale back their plans for medical marijuana legislation, opting to focus on research this year rather than making any policy decisions.

Four Republican lawmakers said Friday at a news conference that their proposals will focus on finding out more about the drug’s impact on conditions such as chronic pain and cancer. They also want to explore the risks.

A separate proposal is expected to outline what rules the state would put in place to regulate the legalization of medical marijuana if that ever happens in the future.

The lawmakers say they also want to see where President Donald Trump’s administration stands with medical marijuana before they make any decisions about legalizing it.

The lawmakers initially were working on five separate medical marijuana proposals.

The libertarian-leaning nonprofit group Libertas Institute criticized the decision by lawmakers. The group said in a statement that legislators are ignoring the plight of Utah residents whose conditions could improve from using medical marijuana.

Utah already allows the marijuana extract called cannabidiol to be used by those with severe epilepsy, as long as they obtain it from other states.