Of all the western states, Utah is considered to be one of the most conservative. Settled by the Mormons in 1847, Utah has a lot of conservative Christians in the state and tend to frown on most drugs, including alcohol and caffeine. But, a medical marijuana a voter initiative that is trying to get onto the 2018 general election ballot has received an amazing amount of support from residents.
In a recent poll by the Salt Lake Tribune-Hinckley Institute of Politics shows support at around 77 percent. The poll, taken randomly from 605 registered voters July 18-20, has a 3.95 percent margin of error. Utahns supported medical marijuana by only 51% according to another poll by the Tribune in 2014. By December of 2015, 61 percent of voters supported it.
The initiative was filed in June by the Utah Patients Coalition which allows for medical marijuana to be used when recommended by a doctor for specific qualifying conditions such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), autism, and chronic pain. It is a restrictive bill that not only defines the acceptable conditions, but also the method on use. The law would limit use to only topicals, oils, and edibles. Unfortunately, much like Minnesota’s law, smoking cannabis would be prohibited.
The recent poll found that over 97 percent of Democrats support the measure, along with a strong 65 percent of Republicans. Even former Governor John Huntsman Sr. has publicly admitted he would “love” to try cannabis. A four time cancer survivor, and now suffering from chronic pain from another ailment, Huntsman told the Tribune in early July, “From national research and understanding, the side effects of medical marijuana are considerably less than virtually all opioids and therefore less destructive to the body.”
Currently, the state has only a hemp extract cannabidiol (CBD) law on the books. In 2014 Utah legislators passed a bill that allows import of hemp derived cannabidiol extracts from legal medical marijuana states. Used to treat severe epilepsy, only 166 people have registered to used the drug between 2014 and 2016.
Summary of the Utah medical cannabis ballot initiative (From Utah Patients Coalition):
Protect terminally and seriously ill patients with specific debilitating medical conditions from arrest and prosecution if using medical cannabis pursuant to their doctor’s recommendation.
Allow a patient who needs assistance to designate a caregiver to help the patient to obtain and administer their medication. Designated caregivers must pass a background check.
Permit medical cannabis card holders to obtain no more than two ounces of cannabis or 10 grams of cannabidiol or tetrahydrocannabinol from a licensed dispensary during any 14-day period.
Maintain prohibitions on the public use of cannabis, driving under the influence of cannabis, and smoking cannabis.
Establish an electronic verification system administered by the Department of Health and issue medical cannabis cards to qualifying patients while tracking the amount of cannabis purchased by each patient.
Provide for issuance of four types of medical cannabis business licenses:
Cannabis cultivation facility
Cannabis processing facility
Independent cannabis testing laboratory
Establish restrictions on the number of medical cannabis businesses, including that not more than one cannabis dispensary be licensed for every 150,000 residents in a county, rounded up to the nearest whole number.
Prohibit felons from owning or working at a medical cannabis business.
Establish restrictions on the locations of medical cannabis businesses:No medical cannabis business may be located within 600 feet of a school, public park or playground, church, or library
No medical cannabis business may be located within 300 feet of an area zoned exclusively for residential use
A medical cannabis business must be in compliance with any zoning restrictions enacted by a local government
Require medical cannabis businesses to use an inventory control system to track cannabis at every step from initial planting to sale.
Require thorough testing of medical cannabis for potency and contaminants and require that medical cannabis be appropriately labeled and securely packaged.
Create a system to evaluate competing applications for medical cannabis licenses that will select those applicants for licensure who are best qualified to operate in compliance with the law and to provide affordable medical cannabis to patients.
Allow local governments to require cannabis businesses to obtain a local license and to impose restrictions on cannabis dispensary operations.
Provide an affirmative defense for medical cannabis related charges that can be used by patients until patient ID cards become available.
Authorize the cultivation of cannabis without a license by a patient only after January 1, 2021 and only if a cannabis dispensary is not operating within 100 miles of the patient’s home, as long as any cultivation is not within 300 feet of an area zoned exclusively for residential use or within 600 feet from a community location. This cultivation must take place in an enclosed and locked space.
Exempt medical cannabis from sales tax.
Generate sufficient revenue from medical cannabis program fees to offset all expenses of establishing and maintaining the medical cannabis program.