Majority of Utah Voters Support Medical Marijuana

Majority of Utah Voters Support Medical Marijuana

According to a poll by Utah Policy, 66 percent of Utahns support legal medical marijuana, administered under the supervision of a prescribing physician.

The polling data indicates stronger support with younger and older demographics. Of voters between ages 18 and 24, 59 percent support medical marijuana legislation, along with 67 percent of voters ages 45 to 54, and 69 percent of voters age 65 and older.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been somewhat supportive of medical marijuana. Among the individuals who were polled as being active in the LDS Church, 55 percent were in favor of medical marijuana. The Church previously stated,

“While we are not in a position to evaluate specific medical claims, the Church understands that there are some individuals who may benefit from the medical use of compounds found in marijuana.”

Senator Mark Madsen originally proposed a bill that was later scaled back to limit the amount of THC. Drug Policy Project of Utah’s Vice President Jessica Reade Gleam expressed concerns for the revised bill.

“While we are concerned that many of the amendments may impede access for patients and could potentially increase the overall cost of the program, Sen. Madsen deserves the sincere appreciation of supporters of medical cannabis for his efforts to address the concerns of many involved in this process and adapt this bill in reflection of those discussions.”

Much of Utah’s medical marijuana legalization efforts have taken a legislative approach, in contrast to other states who legalized cannabis through ballot measures. While this method includes lawmakers in the discussion, it excludes voters from the process. This polling data suggests that a well-crafted ballot measure would pass.

Turner Bitton, president of the Drug Policy Project of Utah explains why a legislative approach suits Utah more than voter initiatives.

“Utahns want somewhat of a compromise,” Bitton said. “They want a tightly regulated program that can’t be accessed by children and teenagers, and they don’t want it to lead to widespread legalization.”

He believes that a legislative approach is the way to deploy a heavily regulated medical marijuana program. “I’m confident in 2017 that it will happen,” said Bitton. Candidates currently campaigning for the Utah governor’s seat support medical marijuana in one form or another. In the Utah Policy poll, 55 percent of Republicans and 90 percent of Democrats support medical marijuana, making it a possible campaign issue as November approaches.

kristin kloc

Two Medical Marijuana Bills Proposed In Utah

Two Medical Marijuana Bills Proposed In Utah

Although no position has been taken on two proposed bills, the groundwork has been laid for a potential medical marijuana program in Utah. A government committee was given their first look as two differing medical marijuana proposals from three different senators.

Sen. Mark Madsen, who also filed a legalization bill last legislative session, as well as Sen. Evan Vickers and Rep. Brad Daw, shared their ideas for the first time with the overseeing committee.

Madsen shared the plan for a bill which would legalize cannabis medication containing both CBD and THC, which they estimated could help approximately 100,000 Utah residents. The program that Daw and Vickers proposed would enable 2,000 to 5,000 Utah residents to purchase and legally use medications with just CBD. Daw pushed for his proposal by saying,

“Let’s not take a step we’re going to regret later on,”

The bill, which would make those with conditions such as cancer, chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and Crohn’s disease eligible for a license to purchase and use medical marijuana, would also allow those veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) the chance to use cannabis. Peter Haglin, a paratrooper during the war in Iraq, is one of the many veterans who are fighting for the right to use cannabis in hopes of improving their negative symptoms caused by PTSD,

“We knew what we were getting into and we were good with it,” Haglin told the Health and Human Services Interim Committee. “But none of us knew what it was going to be like to live our lives after the dust had settled on our military careers.”

The proposal from Madsen would not allow primary physicians to write prescriptions for cannabis, but would rather require a specialists recommendation. Madsen also said that the framework in his bill will use the Department of Agriculture for licensing and regulating growers, processing plants and independent lab testing.

The bill proposed by Daw and Vickers would require patients to get recommendations from doctors, which would enable patients to access and purchase medication at privately owned dispensaries. There would be a limited number of dispensaries throughout Utah and no doctor could give out more than 100 recommendations.

After listening to both proposals, the committee will have a chance to take a side in the debate in November.

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