A statewide campaign to legalize medical marijuana in Utah received the go-ahead from state election officials to begin gathering signatures for a ballot initiative.
The Utah Patients Coalition has been given the green light to start gathering signatures for a ballot initiative that proposes legalizing medical marijuana in the state of Utah. The Utah Medical Cannabis Act will need 113,143 signatures by April 15, 2018 to qualify for the 2018 ballot. Earlier this month, Lt. Governor Spencer Cox gave the campaign approval to move forward.
“We plan to gather the first signatures by next week and be finished prior to the 2018 legislative session in January,” said DJ Schanz, campaign co-director for the coalition, in a statement. “Our volunteers – many of them patients or caregivers themselves – have been ready and early waiting. It feels good to know we will have scheduled events in the coming weeks for those who have waited years for this.”
After feedback from 10 public hearings and extensive meetings with election officials, state tax authorities, and legal and budget analysts, the coalition made two technical changes to the initiative language. One was eliminating a provision that would have required federal tax law to be interpreted and implemented by state tax authorities. The other was to establish a limit on the amount of cannabis a patient or caregiver could transport.
“Everyone involved worked efficiently and provided important input, helping us make sure that Utahns will vote on the best proposal possible,” said Schanz.
The Utah Medical Cannabis Act calls for legalizing marijuana for medical purposes for those with a doctor’s recommendation and diagnosed with a qualifying condition, which include autism, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, HIV, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), multiple sclerosis (MS), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), epilepsy, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, chronic pain, and rare conditions.
The initiative would allow cannabis oils, edibles, vaping supplies, and topical products. Smoking cannabis would remain prohibited. The full text of the initiative is available here, and a summary is available here.
The Utah Patients Coalition kicked off public signature soliciting events last week. The campaign was able to collect more than 1,000 signatures “with little effort” at a Willie Nelson concert. They plan to attend other concerts, as well as food-truck events and farmer’s markets.
“We’re excited to take this to all of Utah – rural, Salt Lake City, wherever – we’ve seen strong support,” said Schanz.
The ballot initiative appears to have a strong chance of being approved if presented to voters next year. A recent poll found that more than 3 of 4 Utah voters support legalizing medical marijuana.
If the ballot initiative qualifies for the ballot and is approved by voters, Utah will join Washington, D.C. and 29 other states to permit the possession and use of marijuana for medical purposes. Efforts to legalize medical marijuana are also underway in Missouri and Oklahoma.