Support for legalizing marijuana for medical purposes has reached 64 percent among Utahns, a new UtahPolicy poll shows.
A UtahPolicy poll last December showed 61 percent support – so Utahns seem to be moving toward medical marijuana legalization.
Pollster Dan Jones & Associates asked the latest question after leaders of the Mormon Church came out against the more broad-reaching – and thus more effective – medical marijuana legalization bill now before lawmakers.
The LDS Church issued two statements on bills legalizing medical marijuana now in the Legislature.
The first, a rather vague message opposed Sen. Mark Madsen’s bill, which includes THC in the prescribed medicine, the ingredient that gives the so-called “high.”
The second statement came a week later and was more specific as to the reasons to oppose the bill by Madsen, R-Saratoga Springs.
Church leaders take no stand on the original bill by Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, which excludes THC, and would only allow various “oils” in the cannabis plant to be prescribed – ingredients that those backing medical marijuana say don’t help much with the pain and nausea associated with various diseases and their standards treatments, especially cancer.
However, Vickers has since substituted that bill with another that would allow THC to be administered to a qualifying patient. The THC is limited to 5 percent by weight of the dosage.
That bill now awaits action on the Senate floor calendar.
There are tighter controls in Vickers substitute, however than Madsen’s bill. Vickers’ substitute would have the state Department of Health issue a medical marijuana card to the patient – not a doctor under Madsen’s bill – and would require the patient’s doctor to watch the patient’s activities carefully — and would limit the number of patients a physician could recommend for medical marijuana treatment.
Jones finds in a just-completed survey that 64 percent of Utah adults support medical marijuana legalization if prescribed by a licensed doctor (basically the Madsen bill).
A third oppose legalization, and 3 percent don’t know.
Madsen held a marathon three-hour hearing on the issue Tuesday night, seeking public input and trying to educate folks about his bill, SB73.
Jones finds there is a vast difference of opinion between Republicans, Democrats and political independents:
Utah Republicans are split on medical marijuana legalization, 49 percent in favor, 47 percent opposed, and 5 percent don’t know.
Democrats are overwhelmingly in favor, 95-6 percent, with zero percent undecided.
Political independents are also in favor, 72-27 percent, 2 percent undecided.
Jones polled 625 adults between Feb. 10-15.
The Mormon Church, which did not oppose medical marijuana legalization when other U.S. states passed their laws, first came out against changing Utah law on Feb. 6.
So all of the respondents would have likely heard about that announcement before answering Jones’ questions.
Mormon leaders issued their second, expanded opposition-to-Madsen-bill statement on Feb. 13 – toward the end of Jones’ polling cycle.
Still, Jones found that those who self-described themselves as “very active” in the LDS Church are still split on legalizing medical marijuana – 48 percent of the “very active” Mormons still favor legalization, 49 percent oppose, and 4 percent of active Mormons are undecided.
Eighty-five percent of Utah Catholics favor legalization; 81 percent of Protestants favor it, and 90 percent of those who said they have no religion support it.
Jones finds that the only demographic group to clearly oppose medical marijuana are those who classify themselves as “very conservative” politically.
The “very conservatives” oppose legalizing medical marijuana, 54-42 percent.
Finally, Tuesday a group of citizens announced that they will try to get on the November 2016 ballot a citizen initiative law legalizing medical marijuana.
That is a tough task to achieve, considering they are starting rather late in the election cycle and will only have a few months to gather the more than 100,000 signatures from registered voters – with 10 percent of the electorate required in 26 of 29 Senate districts.
In 2013-2014, the Count My Vote citizen initiative appeared to have the required signatures, but the organizers spent around $1 million and had a very sophisticated effort to do so.
In his latest poll, Jones surveyed 625 adults from Feb. 1-15, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.92 percent.
Thus, the GOP-controlled Legislature, 80 percent of whom are active Mormons, has an interesting choice: Do the Republicans follow their party members, who are split on medical marijuana, and the Mormon Church, or do they follow the 64 percent of Utahns who favor some kind of effective medical marijuana legalization?