‘They oughta be ashamed.’ Gov. Gary Herbert chides Congress for inaction on pot restrictions

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert scolded federal lawmakers Thursday for their sluggishness in reforming marijuana policy.

The federal classification of cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug — a category that also includes heroin and LSD — interferes with research into its potential medicinal uses and prevents regular pharmacies from dispensing it.

"And that's at the feet of the federal government for their lack of action and attention to this issue," Herbert said. "They oughta be ashamed."

The federal government’s stance puts states in a bind as the public clamors for access to marijuana treatments, Herbert said.

Utah voters last year passed a ballot initiative to create a medical cannabis program, and state legislators swiftly followed up by replacing the proposition with their own marijuana law.

Utah is in the midst of getting this medical cannabis program up and running, and if officials meet the benchmarks established by the new law, patients should see the first marijuana pharmacies open next year.

But, Herbert said, the state still has to reckon with federal banking restrictions that largely force marijuana businesses to operate on a cash-only basis and other policies that prevent doctors from prescribing and dosing cannabis as they would other forms of medicine.

“Even President Trump has said to me personally, ‘Why does the federal government take so long to do anything?’ That’s a great question,” Herbert said during his monthly televised news conference on KUED.

This dilemma over medical cannabis makes the case for shifting power from the federal government down to the states, where partisan gridlock is often less severe than in D.C., Herbert said.

“The federal government has usurped more than they’re capable of delivering,” he said.

During his news conference, Herbert also spoke about his recent treatment for skin cancer. The squamous cell cancer that was removed from his face is not life-threatening, Herbert said, adding that he now feels “fit as a fiddle."

“But again, I’m a walking billboard for wearing sunscreen,” he said.