Utah Patients Coalition launches 2018 medical cannabis ballot initiative campaign

Utah Patients Coalition has launched its 2018 ballot initiative campaign to establish a medical cannabis program for patients in Utah.

The proposed ballot initiative would allow patients to legally and safely access medical cannabis with the recommendation of their doctor. It represents a conservative approach to medical cannabis policy by prohibiting home cultivation and prohibiting smoking medical cannabis.

“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,” said campaign spokesperson Christine Stenquist, who also leads the patient advocacy group TRUCE. “Now it is time for Utah voters to decide.”

The initiative limits the number of dispensaries and cultivators, allows local zoning for medical cannabis facilities, prohibits using medical cannabis in public view, maintains the illegality of driving while intoxicated, and closely mirrors the legislation passed by the Utah Senate in 2016. The full text of the initiative is available at https://www.utahpatients.org/initiative and a summary is available athttps://www.utahpatients.org/initiative/summary.

Utah voters support a medical cannabis ballot initiative by a strong margin. Utah Patients Coalition released polling results that found the following:

  • When asked how they would vote on a ballot initiative to allow doctors to recommend medical cannabis as a treatment for cancer, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, and other serious illnesses, 73% of respondents said they would vote yes (with 49% saying they would definitely vote yes). Only 20% said they would vote no, and 7% were undecided. A majority of Utahns in every age category said they would vote yes on the initiative;
  • 79% of Utahns said they support medical cannabis in principle; and
  • 72% of Utahns said that they would be more likely to support an initiative that allows doctors to recommend medical marijuana for chronic pain.

“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,” said campaign director DJ Schanz. “The patients cannot wait any longer, so we are proposing a conservative medical cannabis initiative that Utahns across the political spectrum will approve at the ballot box next year.”

Utah Patients Coalition is supported by a number of groups including: TRUCE, a Utah patient advocacy group; Libertas Institute, a Utah free market think tank; and the Marijuana Policy Project, the nation’s leading marijuana policy reform organization.

Under Utah law, a ballot initiative requires signatures from five sponsors before it can be filed with the lieutenant governor. The sponsors of the 2018 medical cannabis initiative are:

•    Christine Stenquist, medical cannabis patient and leader of patient advocacy organization TRUCE
•    Carl Wimmer, former state legislator and law enforcement official
•    Candi Huff, patient caretaker
•    Desiree Hennessy, patient caretaker
•    Melissa Butler, hospice nurse

“As a Christian, I’m opposed to things that would alter our minds and bodies. I would be against recreational drugs of any kind,” Wimmer said. “But I am strongly supportive of the legalization of medical cannabis for those who are suffering and have no other means to get relief. I believe it is the compassionate route to take.”

Having filed the ballot initiative with the lieutenant governor, Utah Patients Coalition will now await initial approval and a fiscal note from the state. The next step will be a series of seven regional meetings with voters. After that, Utah Patients Coalition can begin collecting the 113,143 signatures required for qualification for the 2018 ballot.