The Utah Patients Coalition has gathered nearly 160,000 signatures from across the state of Utah as part of its campaign to get medical cannabis on the November ballot.
The coalition has been running this campaign to get medical cannabis before voters, and it had 120,000 signatures verified by county clerks. According to the Lt. Governor’s Office, it has already validated 117,000 of the signatures. That is already more than the 113,000 signatures needed for the initiative to qualify for the November ballot.
To qualify, medical cannabis advocates need to collect a percentage of signatures in 26 of the state’s 29 senate districts by April 16. A few of these districts still need some more signatures.
Utah’s five new cannabis-related legislative measures
Just this month, Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed five legislative measures, including one that would make it legal for approved farmers to grow cannabis for medical purposes next year. However, the medical cannabis will only be for researchers and for the terminally ill patients.
Under this particular new law, farmers will be vetted by the state’s Department of Agriculture and Food before they will be allowed to start growing cannabis next year. This cannabis would then be converted into pills, oils, and gel caps.
Additionally, under another new legislative measure, which is called as the “right to try” law, a terminally ill patient can access medical cannabis only after securing a doctor’s note that says the said patient has only up to six months to live.
The third measure will allow for state-licensed companies to grow and sell industrial hemp. This move got a boost from U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell when he said he will introduce a bill to legalize hemp as agricultural commodity and seek its removal from the controlled substances list.
Yet another law that is part of the new legislation package allows for the state to monitor the safety of cannabis extract oils that are sold in stores. Specifically, the state will establish a registration system that requires CBD oil manufacturers to be registered in order to legally sell their products in stores within the state. This system will help ensure that no harmful substances will reach CBD oil consumers.
To recall, the state had legalized non-psychoactive CBD oil in March 2014 for the treatment of severe epilepsy. This made Utah the first state in the country to legalize CBD oil only without legalizing other forms of marijuana.
The fifth and final measure provides funding for one state board staffer that would review research on CBD. This measure also allows the board to review cannabis-related research from other parts of the world.
What the ballot initiative is about
While the state has already legalized CBD oil and medical cannabis for the terminally ill and for the purpose of research, advocates are hoping for a broader medical cannabis program.
More specifically, advocates who are campaigning for the initiative hope that voters would approve a state-regulated cannabis growing and dispensing operation that would also allow patients suffering from certain other medical conditions to use medical cannabis. They are proposing that medical cannabis patients be required to get a cannabis license and use the drug in edible, oil, vape, and topical forms – but not for smoking.
Rep. Brad Daw, the Republican congressman who sponsored four out of the five new legislative measures, noted that many people think he moved too far with the new legislation and many also think he did not go far enough. Because of this, he believes he “hit the sweet spot.”
As for the ballot initiative, Daw contended that it would make the dispensing and the use of cannabis far too wide open.
Christine Stenquist, president of Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education, counters that the state’s slow approach to medical cannabis legislation is depriving people suffering from chronic illnesses the chance to obtain life-changing relief.
Stenquist pointed out that the ballot initiative is going to create a system that would allow people to access clean and tested cannabis and work with doctors to see what would help them.