Legislative Update: Raising the Age Limit for Smoking and Medical Hemp Use Pass First Hurdles

Here are a few of the highlights from last week’s legislative session:

Raising the Age Limit for Smoking

A handful of Utah lawmakers have been pushing a bill to raise the legal age limit for smoking and tobacco use from 19 to 21, and it looks like the bill is gaining traction. Last week, SB12 introduced by Senator Daniel Thatcher of West Valley City passed through the initial committee vote by 4 to 1 thus being recommended to the full state senate for vote. There are many advocates of the bill both on the government and private level. Many such advocates appeared on the State Capitol last week to give testimony in favor of the bill. Proponents of the bill gave testimony and evidence of the harmful effects smoking can have on younger adults and cited statistics about those who start at 19 smoking and those who start later. Apparently some studies suggest those who begin smoking at 19 or younger stay addicted longer and people in generally are less likely to try tobacco for the first time after 21 as opposed to before. Opponents of the bill did not contend the harmful side effects of smoking but rather called into question the government’s involvement in the free use of the product when 19 year old’s are free to vote, join the military, sue someone, and do all manner of other adult activities. Some believe the state of Utah would be going int the opposite direction and argue all legal substances should apply to 18 year old’s, the legal age of adulthood for nearly everything. For now it looks as though the bill may pass the full legislature, it should go up for a full vote in the next few days.

Hemp Oil for Medical Purposes

While the state senate is looking to make it tougher for tobacco users, the state house is looking to make it easier for some who desire to use hemp oil. That’s right, this week, a house committee recommended HB 105. The first hurdle to a form of medical marijuana (technically hemp but close enough) has been passed in Utah. Advocates of the bill point to the many positive medical uses for hemp oil including help with seizures in small children and many other conditions. The bill would allow patients to apply for a waiver to allow their doctor’s to prescribe hemp oil based medicine. This bill, much like the anti smoking bill, appears likely to go the distance and be passed into law. There is strong support from both democrats and republicans on this issue and the bill seems to be gaining momentum.

As these and many other issues arise on the State Capitol, we will of course be keeping you updated.

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