By Steve Elliott
Utah Governor Gary Herbert on Thursday said he would be open to legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes, providing science shows it can benefit patients and "tight regulations" can control distribution.
"I'm open to the idea of medical marijuana and the discussion of how it can be used as a medicine based on science, and making sure we have good, collaborative efforts so we can answer the questions that are out there," Gov. Herbert said, reports Robert Gehrke at The Salt Lake Tribune.
The governor's position has noticeably softened since the recent legislative session, when he expressed "concerns" about a bill sponsored by state Sen. Mark Madsen (R-Saratoga Springs) which would have created a state-licensed system of medicinal cannabis growing facilities and dispensaries for patients with a doctor's authorization.
At that time, Gov. Herbert had claimed Madsen's bill could lead to a "slippery slope" towards legal recreational use. Madsen's bill failed in the Senate by a single vote; he's said he will reintroduce it next year.
The governor's comments represent progress, according to Connor Boyack, president of the Libertas Institute, a libertarian think tank. "Even during the legislative session, it became clear that the governor was backtracking his initial opposition to medical cannabis, so we expected this to happen and are encouraged to see him becoming more open-minded to it, just as many legislators are," Boyack said.