Medical marijuana initiative within striking distance of qualifying for ballot

There are just over two weeks left for the various ballot initiatives vying for a spot on the November ballot to turn in their 113,000 signatures to qualify.

A analysis of verified signatures for four of the five remaining initiatives shows the proposal to legalize medical marijuana is within striking distance of securing a place on the ballot, with 122,596 verified signatures as of the end of last week.

However, the key to qualifying is getting signatures equal to 10% of the vote in the last presidential election in 26 of Utah’s 29 Senate districts.

The medical marijuana initiative has already met that goal in 22 districts. But, organizers need a handful of signatures in three more districts, meaning they have to focus their final efforts on districts where they still need more than a thousand signatures. Initiative backers have to hit the 10% threshold in just one of these four remaining districts, which mostly consist of rural areas.

  • SD24, represented by Sen. Ralph Okerlund. Organizers still must get 2,835 verified signatures here.
  • SD26, represented by Sen. Kevin Van Tassell. Backers are still 1,944 signatures short here.
  • SD27, represented by Sen. David Hinkins. Here is the likeliest bet to put the initiative over the top, with just 977 signatures to go.
  • SD28, represented by Sen. Evan Vickers. Backers have only turned in 676 signatures here, leaving them 3,245 off the pace.

If the medical marijuana proposal makes the ballot, polling shows it’s headed to a big win, with 77% of Utahns supporting the proposal. Gov. Gary Herbert said last week he would “actively oppose” the ballot initiative, despite the overwhelming public approval.

Count My Vote, which aims to solidify the dual-path route to the primary ballot for candidates, has just under 75,000 verified signatures turned in, and has met the 10% threshold in two districts so far. 

The Better Boundaries ballot initiative, which establishes an independent commission to make a recommendation for redrawing Utah’s political boundaries during the once-a-decade redistricting process, has met the 10% figure in three Senate districts. However, those three very Democratic districts account for more than a 1/3 of the 65,000 verified signatures they have so far. In eight districts, organizers for Better Boundaries have less than 500 signatures verified.

The “Utah Decides Healthcare Act,” which would have the state take full Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, has just under 44,000 signatures verified so far and has not met the 10% threshold in any district. In fact, they are under 100 signatures in four Senate districts, and under 1,000 in five more.

Once again, the Lt. Governor’s office has not yet verified any signatures for the “Keep My Voice” initiative proposal, which seeks to revoke the signature-gathering path to the ballot for candidates. The complete lack of signatures at this point in the game raises serious questions about whether KMV will be able to make the ballot. However, that lack of support for the idea is not surprising, given that just 17% of Utahns say they support the Keep My Voice proposal

Campaigns have until April 16 to turn in the needed signatures.