If all goes according to plan, voters in Utah will get to decide in the election next November whether the state should launch a comprehensive medical marijuana program.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, state officials have given the pro-marijuana group Utah Patients Coalition the green light to begin collecting the signatures necessary to earn a spot on the 2018 ballot. The group must secure 113,143 verifiable signatures before January in order to proceed to the next phase of the campaign.
“We plan to gather the first signatures by next week and be finished prior to the 2018 legislative session in January,” DJ Schanz, campaign co-director for Utah Patients Coalition, said in a statement. “Our volunteers—many of them patients or caregivers themselves—have been ready and eagerly waiting; it feels good to know we will have scheduled events in the coming weeks for those who have waited years for this.”
The initiative would allow people suffering from a variety of serious conditions to purchase cannabis products such as edibles, oils and vaping materials. Similar to states like Florida, Minnesota, and New York, the program would not allow patients to smoke marijuana.
Organizers with the Utah Patients Coalition campaign say they were forced to make a couple of minor changes in the language of the proposal in order to make it more palatable for state officials. The first tweak deals with tax deductions, while the other puts some restrictions on the quantity of marijuana patients would be legally allowed to transport.
The Utah Legislature has had a number of chances throughout the years to approve a medical marijuana program, yet the issue has never been taken seriously. The best they have been able to come up with is a policy that allows universities to research the herb to determine whether the state should dispense it at some point down the road.
As long as the issue makes it on the ballot, medical marijuana stands a fighting chance at going the distance in 2018. A recent poll indicates that 3 out of 4 Utah voters would act favorably if the question of medical marijuana were presented to them during the election.