After unsuccessful attempts at working with the state legislature, The Utah Patients Coalition is leading the effort towards a state ballot measure that would legalize medical cannabis.

DJ Schanz, director of the Utah Patients Coalition said,

“The time has come to help alleviate the pain and suffering of the most vulnerable in our society, with the help of a medicine that works for them.”

Research provided by the advocacy group shows 73 percent of Utah voters would approve medical cannabis legislation with criteria that would, “allow doctors to recommend medical marijuana as a treatment for cancer, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, and other serious illnesses.”

On Monday, supporters of medical cannabis legislation who are affected by debilitating illnesses shared their personal experiences that led to their support of the proposed measure. “We took him to every doctor. We were given every pharmaceutical and nothing helped,” said Desiree Hennessy, whose son suffers from cerebral palsy that causes chronic pain.

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Utah’s existing CBD-only legislation allowed patients to obtain their medicine under a strict criteria. This type of medical cannabis has little effect on chronic illnesses due to the absence of THC. Other states with similar laws that allow for CBD but provide no method or resource for procuring it are unsuccessful at helping patients. State lawmakers in Utah have showed their concern for medical marijuana legislation that may be too inclusive, believing it could lead to recreational use by faking medical conditions.

Knowing that there will be resistance, Utah Patients Coalition is ensuring that smoking medical cannabis will be prohibited. Organizers are planning on gathering enough signatures to make sure medical cannabis reform appears on the state ballot in 2018, with the hope that it will avoid interference with state lawmakers. Schanz stated,

“They’ll know we’re moving forward with the ballot initiative regardless of what games they play in the legislature.”

Former state senator Mark Madsen has sponsored previous attempts at legalizing medical cannabis, and is aware of the opposition to such efforts. Madsen tried medical cannabis to treat back pain, and has experienced an opioid overdose while trying to treat his condition.

“This is one of those issues where the legislature has shown it can’t handle it for a number of reasons, in my opinion,” he said. “I think it’s time for the people to take this up.”

Details of the proposed legislation would make medical cannabis legal under the supervision of a doctor, with a limit on the number of doctors who would be authorized to prescribe it. Instead of creating a regulatory committee who would supervise all cultivation and sales, law enforcement would be tasked with this responsibility. Qualifying conditions would include HIV, AIDS, Alzheimer’s, ALS, cancer, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, PTSD, autism, and other acute medical conditions not yet specified. Utah has a limit on the number of liquor stores based on population, and medical cannabis dispensaries would be limited in a similar fashion.

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115,000 signatures from registered voters are required for the initiative to move forward. Hennessey is aware of the uphill battle facing medical cannabis in Utah. We have a lot of work to do over the next 18 months,” she said. Some of that work will be devoted to convincing the medical establishment to consider the merits the proposed ballot measure. Michelle McOmber, CEO of the Utah Medical Association that the lack of research supporting cannabis means it should remain illegal. “That’s not that way that you determine what is medicine,” she said. She may consider speaking to Hennessey directly to understand why patients are seeking out medical cannabis after all other options have been exhausted.

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