If Utah legislators do what two-thirds of citizens want, the debate over legalizing medical marijuana is over, a new UtahPolicy poll finds.
And the results are not even close.
Sixty-six percent of Utahns want to legalize medical marijuana, as long as it is prescribed by a licensed doctor, pollster Dan Jones & Associates finds in a new survey for the online political newsletter.
Only 28 percent of Utahns oppose legalization, and 5 percent don’t know.
Clearly, public opinion over medical use of the plant has shifted dramatically.
The survey was taken before the release of a new report that shows the very limited use of a marijuana oil in Utah patients, many of them children, suffering from severe, repeated seizures, finds great benefit from the oil.
The 2016 Legislature – after a lot of emotional debate – failed to pass an M/M Bill earlier this year.
Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Saratoga Springs, had a bill that initially would have allowed full use of the plant’s medicinal powers. He later amended it down so there would be less use of THC, the chemical that impacts the body most in pain-killing, but can also give the so-called “high” that marijuana is known for.
His bill ultimately failed in the Senate, leading Madsen – who already was not seeking re-election – to say he was moving to South America to find more freedom.
Madsen, who suffers from chronic back pain, and others were angry with leaders of the LDS Church, who issued a statement saying they feared the Madsen bill, but could support a more restrictive measure by Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, a licensed pharmacist.
However, while the Vickers bill did pass the Senate, House Republicans killed it late in the 45-day session.
Jones finds in its most recent poll that even most Republicans and those who say they are “very active” in the Mormon Church want the legalization of medical marijuana – which is what the Madsen bill did.
The Vickers bill would have legalized an oil from the plant, but not the whole plant usage – like smoking the leaves of the ground plant.
55 percent of Utah Republicans favor legalization of marijuana, prescribed by a doctor, 40 percent oppose and 6 percent don’t know.
90 percent of Democrats support medical marijuana, 8 percent oppose and 2 percent don’t know.
76 percent of political independents favor legalizing the plant for medical use, 19 percent don’t know, and 4 percent don’t know.
Even more of those who say they are “very conservative” politically favor legalizing medical marijuana than those who don’t.
49 percent of the “very conservative” say legalize it, 44 percent say don’t and 8 percent don’t know.
The very liberal – hey dude – we’re for it – 91 percent say legalize the plant for medical use, 5 percent say don’t and 4 percent don’t know.
Considering the LDS Church’s statement, it is not a surprise that 55 percent of those who said they are “very active” in the Mormon Church favor legalizing medical marijuana, 40 percent are opposed and 6 percent don’t know.
Catholics favor legalization, 77 percent to 13 percent.
And those who say they have no religion, 86 percent are for legalization, 10 percent opposed.
One may think that younger Utahns would favor legalization for medical use more than their elders.
But it is actually the opposite.
Jones found that among those 18-24 years old, 59 percent favor legalization, 26 percent oppose and 16 percent didn’t know.
Those 45-54 years old favor it, 67-29 percent.
And those over 65 years old favor it, 69-25 percent.
Perhaps older Utahns are suffering from chronic pain, and see the pain-killing value of medical marijuana as less dangerous to addiction, or side effects, than prescribed use of opiates – like morphine.
In fact, there was a lot of talk – and expert testimony – about Utahns’ addiction to pain pills during the 2016 Legislature.
Utah has a high per-capita use of pain medication, health experts said.
And many families have been touched by the tragedy of accidental, or on purpose, overdoses – many which lead to death.
There is a streak of libertarianism in Utah’s conservative political structure – and that, too, plays into the support of legalizing medical marijuana in the Beehive State.
Madsen may be leaving the Legislature, but there will certainly be more medical marijuana bills coming in the 2017 session.
Jones polled 600 adults from March 23 to April 5. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.