Utah Launches Medical Cannabis Signature Drive

Utah may well be on course to become the 29th State to legalize medical marijuana. Medical marijuana advocates plan to launch a signature drive to put medical marijuana on the Nov 2018 ballot. 113,143 signatures are needed to qualify for the ballot. The proposed imitative would allow qualifying patients to access medical marijuana. Recreational marijuana would still be illegal, and it would also not be permissible for medical marijuana patients to grow their own medical marijuana at home. Patients would need to get a doctor’s cert in order to obtain marijuana from a licensed dispensary.

The exact rules governing the cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana are at the state’s discretion once an initiative has been passed. It is then up to local counties to put rules and procedures into place. Thus, the situation regarding the use of marijuana is very fragmented both between states and within states. This could possibly lead to much confusion with rules that change rapidly form state to state and county to county.

Utah Medical Marijuana Campaign

The driving force behind the signature campaign is the Utah Patient’s Coalition, who want patients to be allowed access to medical marijuana to treat their conditions. Marijuana has been successfully linked to the treatment of epilepsy, muscle spasms, schizophrenia, bi-polar, Lumens, chronic pain and multiple other conditions. Marijuana has many benefits for those suffering from mental health issues and is particularly effective at helping patients with PTSD. Where marijuana helps most in terms of being a restorative compound is in the treatment of pain and stress.It’s ability to relax the body and the mind is unmatched by any other remedy with very minor side effects. While chemical solutions may be better in the short term they have devastating consequences in the long term and patients quickly develop dependency. It is often just a tradeoff where the body is being harmed in other areas to treat the symptoms of another. One spokesperson for the Utah patient’s coalition, Christine Stenquist, stated that:

“For the past several years we have advocated for a medical cannabis policy that allows patients to seek medical treatment without breaking the law, but the state legislature has refused.Now it is time for Utah voters to decide.”

The initiative allows for a maximum number of cultivators and dispensaries, permits local zoning for medical marijuana and forbids the use of marijuana in public. A poll carried out by the Utah Patients Coalition found that 73% of patients would be supportive of allowing the use of medical marijuana for patients with diseases such as cancer, epilepsy and Alzheimer’s. 20% said they would actually deny another person’s right to medical marijuana for a serious illness. While some say this is a small number, others may find it surprisingly big. After all, why would anyone feel justified in denying another’s right to medical treatment using their own free will?

A Conservative Proposal

As it stands the proposal is actually quite conservative, much like the policies of Florida and Pennsylvania. There will be a limited number of permits available and a limited number of medical marijuana dispensaries. It will not be easy to obtain a medical marijuana license, as is the case in some states, where it can be obtained within an hour online. But the underlying reason behind this conservative proposal is that patients need access to marijuana right now. A more powerful proposal would take far longer to pass and draft up, and may ultimately be rejected. It might be a better strategy to get a conservative proposal passed and then follow it up with a more far reaching proposal when people are more onboard with marijuana legalization. Campaign Director DJ Shanz stated that:

“Utahns are compassionate, and medical cannabis is ultimately a question of compassion. Voters in our state support allowing sick Utahns to legally and safely access medical treatments that alleviate suffering. The patients cannot wait any longer, so we are proposing a conservative medical cannabis initiative that Utahnsacross the political spectrum will approve at the ballot box next year.

Support for the Coalition

The Utah Patients Coalition is supported by a number of groups including TRUCE, Libertas Institute and the Marijuana Policy Project. Under the current Utah law, a ballot initiative will require signatures from 5 sponsors before it can be filed the 5 current sponsors are

  • Christine Stenquist, a medical cannabis patient and leader of TRUCE
  • Carl Wimmer, the former state legislator.
  • Melissa Butler, a hospice nurse
  • Candi Huff, a patient caretaker
  • Desiree Hennessy, also a patient caretaker

The ballot initiative has been filed and the Utah patient’s coalition awaits approval from the State. After this, a series of meetings and campaigns will follow suit and the Utah Patients Coalition will begin to collect the 113,143 signatures required for the initiative to be put on the 2018 ballot. Given how conservative the proposal is, it would seem that the ballot will pass and patients in Utah will have access to medical marijuana sometime late next year of perhaps the year after to alleviate their conditions. A more liberal approach might follow with less stringent rules and perhaps even the legalization of recreational marijuana, through this might prove far more difficult to pass.

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