After years of attempting to legalize medical marijuana in Utah with no success, residents are working to bring the issue to the public next year for a vote. The Utah Patients Coalition has presented a new medical marijuana initiative that would aim to create a medical marijuana industry in the state. A limited number of growers, producers and dispensaries would be allowed to provide a variety of medical marijuana products to registered patients who have a doctor’s recommendation. Limited numbers of doctors would be allowed to recommend marijuana and the plant will only be allowed to be dispensed as an oil, pill, edible, topical lotion or vaporizer. Smoking will still be prohibited in an effort to appease and compromise with some of the more conservative constituents.
The Primitive Beginning of Utah Medical Marijuana
Utah passed a bill in 2014 to allow patients with epilepsy to use a very limited form of cannabis oil that they could purchase from other states. While this was a step for medical marijuana, it still left so many others, such as those suffering with cancer and chronic pain, untreated. Another concern is that many epilepsy patients, while getting some relief with the oil, were not getting the best possible treatment for their ailment. Higher doses, different strains and varying methods of application were necessary for full relief. The new bill seeks to remedy this and add more debilitating disorders to the list including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain and autism.
An Alternative to Addictive Opioids
The press conference held to announce the initiative was attended by many patients or parents of patients holding signs that read “cancer” “PTSD” and other conditions. It was also attended by former Senator Mark Madsen who worked very hard to try and legalize the plant before retiring. Madsen talked about his chronic back pain and the problems he encountered including overdosing when he unsuccessfully tried to treat the pain using prescription opioids. Thousands die every year using opioids. No one has every died or even experienced physical trauma from consuming cannabis and most patients claim that it is the more effective form of medical treatment. In states with legal marijuana, opioid related hospital visits are down approximately 23 percent.
The Goals That Must Be Met
Advocates of the new initiative will need to collect 113,143 signatures from registered voters by April next year, although the group plan to have all signatures collected by January 2018 to allow space for dealing with any potential curve balls. Organizers have to hold 7 public hearings throughout Utah before all signatures can be collected. If voters choose to pass the bill, dispensaries are expected to be opened by January 2021. Several groups are planning to assist in gathering signatures including an education group called Utah Residents for Medical Cannabis. Once signatures are collected, they are sent to the governor’s office so that a fiscal impact report can be completed. At that point, the initiative can be added to the 2018 ballot and Utah residents will be given the opportunity to decide whether they want a medical marijuana program.