Utah takes a lot of flak for being highly conservative. Maybe some of it is deserved, but most of it isn’t. Take the case of its marijuana laws. Utah allows medical cannabis, just like 37 other states. They do not allow recreational marijuana consumption. But that doesn’t make the state a marijuana dinosaur.
That is not the opinion of a recent contributor to the Salt Lake City Weekly. According to Michael S. Robinson Sr., Utah’s marijuana laws are antiquated enough that they should be erected alongside the Dinosaur National Monument.
Everyone is free to hold their own opinions on any topic. We do not all have to think alike. To that end, this post was written to discuss the other side of the debate; to demonstrate just how far Utah has come in its acceptance of marijuana.
A Historical Perspective
Marijuana was no big deal in the U.S. until the early part of the 20th century. Things began to change when a misunderstanding of marijuana’s effect on the brain led people to fear it. Cultural acceptance began to wane until marijuana was added to the list of Schedule I controlled substances in the 1970s.
Fast forward roughly 20 years to the 1990s, when states like California and Washington began the push for medical cannabis. Back then, few people thought that Utah would ever give the go ahead. But here we are, several years removed from the voter proposition that brought medical cannabis to the Beehive State.
The program here in Utah is far from perfect. But lawmakers deserve credit for continually working on it and making it better. For example, home delivery was not allowed when the law was first enacted. It is now. Acute pain was not on the original qualifying conditions list. It was added in 2022.
Progress Takes Time
It is true that 21 states, 4 U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia have all given the green light to recreational marijuana consumption. But it is also true that marijuana is still illegal at the federal level. It is hard to fault states that choose to err on the side of caution. Not only that, but progress takes time.
Utah and the remaining 17 states that have approved medical cannabis but not recreational marijuana are accused of not being progressive enough. Why? Because they are not moving fast enough for marijuana proponents. But if you go back to the earliest stages of the medical cannabis movement, how long did it take for states like California and Colorado to get from medical-only to recreational consumption? It took a long time. Why would anyone expect Utah to move more quickly?
Caution Is Warranted
As things currently stand, Utah is a medical-only state. All medical cannabis consumed in the state must be produced here. Patients can only purchase medical cannabis products from licensed retailers like Utah medical cannabis dispensary Beehive Farmacy. Out-of-state visitors can get temporary medical cannabis cards while in Utah, but they cannot bring cannabis with them into the state.
There is no argument that Utah’s marijuana laws are conservative. But the caution demonstrated by state lawmakers is warranted. State-legal marijuana opens the door to things we haven’t even considered before. And again, federal law is what it is.
This writer believes that Utah and its lawmakers are to be commended for their caution. Rushing into things often leads to unintended consequences that can be difficult to deal with. If legalizing recreation marijuana is the right thing to do, Utah will eventually get there. If it is the wrong thing to do, the state just might be saving itself from disaster.