Campaign groups in both Missouri and Utah are in the process of gathering signatures for medical marijuana measures.
Efforts are underway to legalize medical marijuana in both Missouri and Utah, as campaign groups in both states are gathering signatures for measures they hope to present to their respective voters in 2018.
As of now, cannabis remains classified federally as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act, but 29 states have passed their own comprehensive medical marijuana laws. A campaign organization in Oklahoma has already has a certified medical marijuana measure to present to voters in the coming 2018 election. Voters in Utah and Missouri will also have the opportunity to bring medicinal cannabis to their states, provided campaign organizations are able to successfully gather enough signatures before spring of next year.
After failed legislative efforts since 2014, Utah medical cannabis proponents have decided to move forward by proposing a ballot initiative. The Utah Patients Coalition filed a proposal for permitting cannabis for medical use in Utah last month, and once the lieutenant governor approves it, the group will need to obtain 113,000 signatures of Utah voters in at least 26 of the state’s 29 Senate districts by April 15, 2018.
“We have been advocating on this issue since 2014,” said Christine Stenquist, a spokeswoman for the Utah Patients Coalition. “Patients need access, and the when is now.”
The proposed ballot initiative would allow medical marijuana access to patients diagnosed with 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 proposal calls for allowing patients to purchase cannabis oils, edibles, topicals, and vaporizing materials, but would ban smoking. Unfortunately, the initiative would also prohibit home cultivation and public use.
“For many people here, this bill isn’t perfect, this initiative isn’t perfect in the language and, in fact, it falls short of what many people believe it should be,” said DJ Schanz, the campaign’s co-director. “What it is is possible and what it is is it’s going to pass in 2018.”
Advocates believe they will have enough support from voters, partly due to the state’s opioid epidemic. Utah is ranked 7th in the U.S. for opioid overdoses, and evidence suggests that states with legal access to medical marijuana have fewer opioid-related fatal overdoses.
According to a February poll by FM3 research, 73 percent of Utah voters say they would support a measure that legalizes medical marijuana with the recommendation of a doctor.
“These numbers are actually what really helped put us over the top in deciding to move forward actively with the ballot initiative,” Schanz said. “There was always a bit of hesitancy, knowing if the public was with us.”
Much of the language within the measure is taken directly from Senate Bill 73, introduced in 2016 by former Utah Sen. Mark Madsen (R-Saratoga Springs). The legislation failed, but proponents believe the bill offers a conservative and highly regulated bill that most Utahns will support.
In Missouri, campaign organization New Approach Missouri is raising funds and collecting signatures for its proposal to create a medical marijuana program. The group narrowly failed to get a similar proposal on the 2016 ballot.
Their new proposed initiative would allow qualified patients to legally purchase and use dried flower, as well as marijuana capsules, teas, oils, extracts, ointments or balms, food products, patches or suppositories, and other infused products. The list of qualified conditions in the measure include cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, intractable migraines, debilitating psychiatric disorders, HIV and AIDS, terminal illnesses, chronic conditions that cause pain or spasms, and any other medical condition as recommended by a physician.
The strongest opposition to New Approach Missouri is local prosecutors who are concerned with marijuana’s federal status.
New Approach Missouri has until May 6, 2018 to collect and submit roughly 190,000 signatures of registered voters from at least six congressional districts. So far, it’s collected approximately 40,000 signatures, and the group plans to hire paid collections to increase signature production this summer.
In 2016, voters in seven states approved marijuana measures in what was an astounding representation of the nation’s shifting attitude toward cannabis. Support for marijuana legalization in the U.S. is now at an all-time high.