Patients and advocates have demanded legalized medical marijuana for the past several years, and they say Utah lawmakers have failed to deliver. Now the Utah Patients Coalition says it’s time to bring the issue directly to Utah voters.
The new group filed a ballot initiative with the Lt. Governor’s office Monday in hopes of bringing medical marijuana legalization before Utah voters in 2018.
“Utah is ready,” said advocate Candi Huff at a press conference. “Now is the time. We are educated and it’s the right thing to do for Utah patients.”
Huff is one of the sponsors of the initiative. Her daughter Madison suffers from intractable epilepsy and found relief in cannabis oil after it was legalized for epilepsy patients in 2014.
“This ballot initiative is going to expand cannabis in Utah. It’s going to allow for more than just epilepsy,” Huff says.
Advocates say the measure is conservative but passable. Dispensaries would be heavily regulated and patients would not be allowed to smoke their cannabis. But it would allow use of the full marijuana plant through vaping, edibles and topicals.
It would also permit use by patients suffering from a much larger range of illnesses, including Alzheimer’s cancer, MS, Crohn’s disease and autism.
The ballot initiative borrows heavily from a bill introduced in the Utah legislature by former Sen. Mark Madsen in 2016. Madsen told KUER he is moving to Peru later this year to work on policy for legalizing medical cannabis there, but he says he’s optimistic about the initiative here in Utah.
“I have high hopes for this and I’m glad to know that it’s going to carry on without me,” Madsen says.
Pending initial approval from the Lt. Governor’s office, the Utah Patients Coalition will hold several public meetings with voters around the state. Then they will be able to begin gathering the 113,000 signatures needed to qualify for the ballot in 2018.