2016 Bills

SB73: The Utah Medical Cannabis Act

This bill passed the Senate on a 17-12 vote but failed in a House committee on a 4-8 vote.

Libertas Institute supports this bill.

Senator Mark Madsen has sponsored legislation that would allow patients suffering from a few conditions to possess and use cannabis, with a doctor’s approval and recommendation. Senate Bill 73 would prohibit smoking, but allow the individual to ingest cannabis for relief or treatment through an oil, topical, vapor, or edible.

Last year, Senator Madsen attempted to legalize medical cannabis; the bill failed by a single vote in the Senate. This year’s bill is significantly different, and much more highly regulated—crafted with input from state agencies and regulators, patients, industry representatives, and advocates. It crafts the right approach in opening up a tightly regulated marketplace for this medicine, while providing a safe harbor to sick and suffering Utahns who should not be subjected to the criminal justice system.

Below is a detailed summary of the bill, broken down by category, with line numbers in the bill provided for reference.

Doctor Involvement

  • Physicians may not be employed by cannabis growing, processing, or testing facilities, or dispensaries, and may not have any ownership interest in a dispensary. (420, 1219-1222)
  • Physicians who recommend cannabis to a  patient fill out and submit an application online during an office visit with the patient. The information is saved into the electronic verification system, to which state agencies and law enforcement have access. (788-791)
  • Physicians who voluntarily choose to recommend cannabis to patients under the law are shielded from civil and criminal liability, and licensure sanctions. (860-869)
  • A Compassionate Use Board of physicians may hear applications for a one-off compassionate use approval for conditions not listed in the bill; physicians and satisfactory evidence would be required, and the Department of Health would over final say in issuing a card. (930-996)
  • Physicians must be licensed and certified by their appropriate American medical board, in a limited few specialities pertaining to the list of conditions allowed for medical cannabis use. (999-1021)
  • Physicians who voluntarily choose to recommend cannabis must complete training administered by the Department of Health. (1008-1010)
  • Physicians may only recommend cannabis to 20% or less of their patients, unless they receive approval from the Compassionate Use Board upon demonstrating that the physician’s practice has unique characteristics that warrant an increase. (1011-1012, 1023-1027)
  • Physicians may only advertise online that they recommend cannabis; no other advertising is allowed. (1221-1222)

Law Enforcement and Oversight

  • An inventory control system is required, which tracks every single cannabis plant from its infancy, harvest, processing, and sale to the end user.  (227-248)
  • A video recording system is required minoring all cannabis businesses at all times. 45 days worth of video must be stored, it must be tamper proof, and cameras must monitor “all handling and processing of cannabis.” (232-239)
  • An electronic verification system is required that allows patients and physicians to apply, connects to the inventory control system to track who purchased cannabis, where, and when, and will be accessible by law enforcement. (818-856)
  • The Departments of Agriculture and Health may revoke licenses and impose penalties for violation of the law—up to $5,000 per violation. (604-647, 1327-1350)
  • Medical cannabis patients, and industry owners and employees, are not subject to marijuana law penalties provided they are in full compliance with the Medical Cannabis Act. (1547-1639)

Patient Use

  • Smoking cannabis is prohibited. (1632-1637)
  • Applicants who qualify must submit to the Department of Health a signed recommendation by a  physician, pay a fee, and provide personal information. (754-769)
  • A parent or legal guardian may obtain a permit for a minor who qualifies and receives a recommendation from a doctor. (770-787)
  • Frail patients may indicate up to two caregivers who may, upon application and approval, receive a card allowing them to obtain and transport cannabis to the patient. Caregivers must pass a background check and may be excluded for certain felonies. (792-804, 904-928)
  • Medical cannabis cards are valid for the lesser of: an amount of time specified by the physician; or two years. They are renewable provided that physician approval is given. (805-815)
  • Those who obtain a card must carry it with them at all times outside their residence, and cannabis must be in packaging that contains the bar code to allow it to be tracked. Such persons have a rebuttal presumption of legal use if questioned by law enforcement. (873-901)
  • Patients who do not qualify under the included list of conditions may seek approval from the Compassionate Use Board for their condition. (931-996)
  • Qualifying patients must have one of the following conditions: AIDS, Alzheimer’s, ALS, cancer, Crohn’s disease, Epilepsy, MS, PTSD related to military service, or chronic pain. To qualify for chronic pain, the physician must first determine that the individual is at risk of becoming chemically dependent on, or overdosing on, opiate-based pain medication. (1030-1046)
  • Government employees may not be terminated for using medical cannabis. (1050-1068)
  • In a custody dispute or proceedings to terminate parental rights, a court may not discriminate against a parent because of the parent’s possession or consumption of medical cannabis. (1418-1421, 1832-1834)
  • Medical cannabis patients have an affirmative defense against the state’s metabolite law that prohibits driving with any amount of metabolite, whether it is pharmacologically active and impairing or not. (1437-1441)
  • Police officers and Division of Child and Family Services employees may not take a child into custody on the sole basis of the possession or use of medical cannabis in the home, if done in compliance with the Medical Cannabis Act. (1717-1719)


  • Tax revenue from the sale of cannabis is deposited into the Medical Cannabis Restricted Account. This revenue may only be used to fund the state regulation of medical cannabis. (735-750, 1683-1684)
  • Medical cannabis is exempt from sales tax. (1642-1651)
  • A retail purchase of medical cannabis is assessed a 4.7% tax. (1669-1671)

Cannabis Production Establishments (Grows, Processing facilities, Independent Testing Laboratories)

  • Applicants for a license must have $250,000 in liquid assets, submit a detailed application, pay a large application fee, and pass a background check. (256-338)
  • All employees must submit an application, pay a fee, pass a criminal background check. Convicted felons may not be employed by these facilities. (341-356)
  • Employees transporting cannabis must carry their registration card at all times; there is a rebuttable presumption that such individuals are carrying cannabis legally. Cannabis being transported must be labeled, bar coded, and monitored. (390-404, 449-464)
  • A security system is required that can provide notice of unauthorized entry to law enforcement. (408-415)
  • A physician may not be employed by these facilities. (420)
  • Local governments may not enact zoning ordinances that prohibit these facilities on the sole basis that they are cannabis production establishments; they are a permitted use in agricultural, industrial, or manufacturing zones. (423-429)
  • The Department of Agriculture may inspect a facility’s records up to three scheduled times per year, and one unscheduled time per year—or at any time the department has reason to believe a law has been violated. (432-440)
  • These facilities may not advertise to the general public in any way. (443-444)

Growing Cannabis

  • Home grows are prohibited.
  • Cannabis grown may not be visible from the street level outside the facility. (473-475)
  • The Department of Agriculture will establish administrative rules regarding pesticide and fertilizer use to ensure cannabis grown is safe for human use. (486-492)
  • All harvested cannabis is tracked with a unique identifier. (476-479)

Processing Cannabis

  • Products must have a label that contains detailed information about the cannabis, along with bar code and unique ID tracking to tie it to the processed and harvested cannabis from which it originated. (512-520)
  • Cannabis products must be in a tamper resistant package that is not appealing to children and is opaque. (521-526)
  • Cannabis products may not be in a physical form that is appealing to children. (525-526)
  • The Department of Health may create administrative rules regarding the physical criteria for cannabis products. (531-533)
  • No products are allowed that apply cannabis agents to the surface of an existing food product not produced by that facility (e.g. candy, cookies, and other pre-made foods). (534-536)
  • The Department of Agriculture may establish product quality standards for cannabis products to ensure safety for human consumption. (539-546)

Testing Cannabis

  • A person may not obtain a testing facility license, or work for a testing facility, if they have an ownership interest in, or are employed by, a dispensary, processing facility, or cultivation facility. (325-333, 557-558)
  • All cannabis or cannabis products must be tested to determine the cannabinoid profile, and if it contains any mold, fungus, pesticides, other microbial contaminants, or residual solvents. (566-576)
  • Tested cannabis that is found to be unsafe for human consumption must be reported to the Department of Agriculture. The cannabis may be seized, embargoed, or destroyed. (588-600)


  • Applicants must have $500,000 in liquid assets, submit a detailed application, pass a background check, and pay a large fee. (1072-1101)
  • Dispensary licenses are valid for two years, and renewable. (1104-1108)
  • Dispensaries are limited to one per county, except counties of more than 200,000 residents, in which one dispensary for 200,000 residents may be issued. (1135-1138)
  • The Department of Health will evaluate applicants to determine which has best demonstrated experience with a related business, operating a secure inventory control system, complying with a regulatory environment, training and monitoring employees, and which applicant has connections to the local community and can best reduce the cost of cannabis to the patient. (1139-1149)
  • All employees must submit an application, pay a fee, pass a criminal background check. Convicted felons may not be employed by a dispensary. (1152-1188)
  • Employees transporting cannabis must carry their registration card at all times; there is a rebuttable presumption that such individuals are carrying cannabis legally. Cannabis being transported must be labeled, bar coded, and monitored. (1192-1205)
  • Only those with a medical cannabis card may enter. (1210-1211)
  • Dispensaries must have a single, secure public entrance, a security system, and track everything in the inventory control system. (1210-1218)
  • No cannabis may be consumed at the dispensary. (1225-1226)
  • Dispensaries may only sell cannabis, cannabis products, cannabis devices (such as vaporizers), or educational materials related to the medical use of cannabis. (1232-1236)
  • Dispensaries may only sell, in any one 30-day period, 2oz. or less of unprocessed cannabis, or cannabis products that contain 10 grams or less of cannabinoids. All purchases are tracked to ensure dispensary shopping, to exceed this limit, does not occur.  (1239-1255)
  • Devices (vaporizers) that resemble a cigarette are prohibited. (1256-1257)
  • Cannabis products sold must be clearly labeled in tamper resistant containers that are bar coded and tracked. (1264-1272)
  • Dispensaries may not advertise, except for signage on the building that contains the dispensary’s name, hours of operation, a green cross, and a website address. (1275-1283)
  • The Department of Health may inspect a dispensary’s records up to three scheduled times per year, and one unscheduled time per year—or at any time the department has reason to believe a law has been violated. (1286-1293)
  • Local governments may not enact zoning ordinances that prohibit dispensaries on the sole basis that they sell cannabis; they are a permitted use in agricultural, industrial, or commercial zones. (1296-1304)
  • davidpmatthews

    LibertasUtah votemadsen JustErin spread the word.

  • antodav

    This bill still contains a lot more restrictions than I’d prefer, including some really ridiculous ones like prohibiting the consumption of cannabis by smoking (like it really makes a difference), a list of conditions for which one can obtain a medical marijuana card that is far too narrow, and fees that are probably much too high, but nevertheless, it’s a start. It’s probably the best bill that can get passed right now given the political climate in Utah. I hope that it does.

  • jpv

    If it only did not pass by one vote, WHY IN THE WORLD are you doing this:
    “This year’s bill is significantly different, and much more highly regulated”

  • jpv In order to get it through the House of Reps.

  • Akline51

    The list of illnesses is way to small. COPD is another use and has successfully been used for treatment as it is a natural bronco dilation substance. As there is no cure for emphysema but some have been able to stop traditional medications as well as removed from supplemental oxygen. I also do not understand a fee for possession as no other drug are you required to pay a fee. I have COPD and am very interested in trying this medication to treat my condition as normal medications are working. I beleive it is not in the best interest of the State to charge a fee for a product that is still a violation of Federal Law. Having retired from law enforcement and 35 years as a volunteer firefighter I do not want to break the law, but I would like the chance to try a natural product to treat my COPD. It is not smoked either for this condition it uses cannibus oil.

  • Barbaranrl

    How about the rest of us with PTSD that did not get it from the military, do we matter less? We suffer less?

  • ConiMari98

    It’s time that the federal goverment remove it as a schedule one drug and legalize it for everyone! It’s less dangerous than alcohol, but we still allow the consumption of alcoholic beverages, which cause the deaths of 50,000 people from overdose annually. That number doesn’t even take into account the 14,000+ people die from liver disease. It also doesn’t take into account homicides and accidents cause by those who are under the influence of alcohol.

  • Guest

    <sigh> One step at a time, I guess. It is a POV problem: to me, this bill reeks of statolatry, but many Utahns, conditioned to worship authority, will undoubtedly consider it anarchistic.

  • josnow44

    Orrin Hatch will be a huge problem! He’s made it clear he doesn’t support medical marijuana and looks like he has interests in Big Pharma?

  • Akline51

    Hatch supports big pharma but even more he supports the dietary supplements industry in Utah. If people start using cannibus they will slow down the profit of the companies that support him.

  • Akline51

    Hatch does not want his gravy train to slow down, big pharma, and dietary supplements industry. They don’t make money off of cannibus.


    This bill sucks dont sign it

  • theicecowboy

    Speaking as someone who’s been working on this issue for three years in Utah, a lot of people here seem to be letting the hopefully just possible be the enemy of the impossible to pass ideal…

  • Guest

    Well, this will be a huge PR problem for him, considering his past support for manufacturers of supplements based on ephedra (“Mormon tea”). Someone will unavoidably use the word “hypocrisy”.

  • DanLuker

    So what  about people such as myself , that have fibromyalgia, neuropathy, chronic anxiety, .  it sounds to me like the red tape is endless, . I  believe there’s still way to many restriction, , and the people on disability, , fixed income, medicare, , they’re not going to pay for this, ,, so it seems only the rich will get the help they need right ?

  • Akline51

    The legislature should not be making medical decisions. Plants wereally some of the first medicines used. Let the doctors decide for their patients for as more research is done more things might come up. Even if it only helps the quality of life, that is a major advancement. We use pure poison to treat illness. Just look at the new natural medicines being found each day.

  • DanLuker
  • NewlyEducatedSenior

    That is why you should be able to grow a couple of plants for personal use, not for resale. With all of these built in fees to pass on to the consumer they do restrict its availability. It’s bound to be really expensive. I think it could be better also but I guess they won’t get Herbert to sign it if it doesn’t come with all of these strings attached.

  • CjRay

    I personally would like to see it leaglized in whole form but with curtain regulations to ensure that kids are not using it that don’t need it medically. I am a person who suffers from Fibromyalgia, and nerve damage in my back. I have smoked it before and the benefits were amazing with no pain not to mention my PTSD, Anxiety, and Chronic Depression was gone for 4 hours when the effects wore off. So I support the bill as a start but wish that there wasn’t so many regulations and such a little amount of people who could qualify. Not to mention a fee. What are we trying to help the rich? I am disabled and have no income whatsoever because of my disabilities with no medicaid or any help due to being denied repetitively to the point I feel I am being discriminated against. So having a fee for someone like me is like asking me to pay a million dollars for it. Then the bill only supports oils that are to be taken by mouth which by digestion the amount of time to get any benefit will be roughly 30 minutes when a person like me needs it ASAP when the pain is so bad I’d rather die than be in the extreme amount of pain I am usually in. I am not suicidal at all but I say it that way for others to understand the emergent time frame I need relief. So being that said inhaled smoked matter of the Cannabis flower is the quickest to bring forth the relief. I wish that the people could understand what the Cannabis plant is and the true history of it from the days before Christ to the 1920 when Harry Anslinger went on rampage against the plant and the truth behind his doing so. Only then will people understand that this plant is not the enemy it is a gift from God! Quite simply put educate yourself on Cannabis before being so against it that you force others to suffer because of your own ignorance! I wish that others could know things not throw out babble that makes no sense about something they know nothing about, and when a person tries to explain it to them they revert to the thinking that the person who is knowledgeable about it is just a crack pot stoner that can’t be trusted! Sorry for long winded but had to be said for those no Sayers that can’t understand the simplicity in something that is simple. knowledge is a very powerful thing use the chance to learn the truth any chance you get!

  • SimonHarwood

    Do it