ST. GEORGE – According to the results of a recent poll released Monday, more than 75 percent of Utah voters support a proposed ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana in Utah.
Published in The Salt Lake Tribune, the poll shows 78 percent of registered Utah voters strongly and somewhat support the 2018 ballot initiative. Twenty percent of those not in favor of the measure were evenly split between strongly and somewhat opposed, with 3 percent undecided.
The poll was conducted by Dan Jones & Associates and has a margin for error of plus or minus 3.95 percent.
“We’re happy to see that,” Doug Rice, a member of the Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education, or TRUCE, said over the phone Monday.
Doug Rice, who is a retired firefighter and paramedic living in Salt Lake County, is one of the signers of the medical marijuana ballot initiative that was filed in June by the Utah Patients Coalition.
Doug Rice is a medical marijuana advocate due to his 24-year-old daughter Ashley Rice. She has Angelman’s Syndrome and as a part of that she is epileptic and has the mind of a 3-year-old, her father said.
The Rices have been able to reduce seizure attacks thanks to a 2014 Utah law allowing approved individuals to use cannabidoil, a hemp extract, to treat epilepsy. However, they have to travel to Colorado to get the oil as it remains prohibited in Utah.
While Ashley Rice has benefited from the CBD cannabis oil extract, it hasn’t been as effective as his daughter has gotten older. When they traveled to Colorado to get the cannabis oil, Doug Rice said he bought some edible gummies for his daughter that contained THC and combined it with her CBD oil treatment.
“We saw total seizure control,” Doug Rice said.
The medical marijuana is seen as a far better alternative to regular medicines for the 24-year-old, due to the latter rendering her “a zombie” and not her usual self, her father said.
“Our insurance was willing to pay $800 for medicines that left my daughter a zombie,” Doug Rice said.
However, legislators like Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem, have told him to be patient and wait on the results of state-approved research.
Earlier this year the Legislature passed a bill sponsored by Daw authorizing research into medical marijuana.
However, after years of failing to pass medical marijuana policy, a ballot initiative effort was started by advocates and patients.
“We shouldn’t have the Legislature in the medicine cabinet,” Doug Rice said.
Daw told the Salt Lake Tribune he believes the initiative is too broad. While he said he has seen support for the initiative among his constituents, he said they also want strict regulated medical marijuana usage if legalized.
“The fact that they want the initiative doesn’t surprise me,” Daw told The Salt Lake Tribune. “However, I think once they understand what’s in the initiative, they will pull back.”
Utah lawmakers have also been hesitant to move on approving medical marijuana due to uncertainty concerning the stance on the subject by the Donald Trump administration. While some states have legalized marijuana for medical and recreational use, it remains illegal on the federal level.
Still, support for medical marijuana legalization remains high, according to the polls. The results of the Dan Jones poll are similar to those of a recent poll commissioned by the Salt Lake Tribune that was conducted by the Hinkley Institute of Politics. The results of that poll show that 77 percent of Utahns either strongly or somewhat support medical marijuana.
The results of the Dan Jones poll were released in the wake of Jon Huntsman Sr., one of Utah’s more prominent residents, spoke in favor of medical marijuana and a willingness to try it during an interview with Fox 13 News.
“I’m a very strong advocate for medical marijuana,” Huntsman Sr. said. “I think some folks have it terribly confused with smoking marijuana.”
Huntsman is a four-time cancer survivor and refuses to take opioid-based medications due to worries over side effects and a general inability to relieve his pain.
“I won’t take the opioids, I’ll take the pain,” Huntsman said of the current treatments.
Aside from relief for chronic pain, medical marijuana advocates have said the plant is able to treat various ailments and maladies.
Under the ballot initiative, ailments that would qualify for medical marijuana use include Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, epilepsy, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis and autism.
“There are so many things this stupid plant can help,” Doug Rice said, claiming it can also help individuals who deal with post-traumatic stress disorder.
However, the initiative does prohibit smoking marijuana and driving under its influence.
In order to get on the 2018 ballot, the initiative needs to gather over 130,000 signatures from 26 of the state’s 29 counties. It is also required to hold seven public hearings across the state, which it recently wrapped up.
Attendees at the hearings were “overwhelmingly supportive,” Doug Rice said.
“We just want access to it,” he said. “I’m tired of waiting.”
Highlights of the initiative
- It would allow whole plant marijuana.
- Require physician oversight for prescriptions, as well as limit the number of physicians who can prescribe it.
- Limit how much medical marijuana a patient can obtain over a 14-day period.
- Limit dispensaries to 1 for every 150,000 residents. Also limit where a dispensary can be located.
- Caregivers who administer medical cannabis to patients must be able to pass background checks.
- Maintain prohibitions on the public use of cannabis, driving under the influence of cannabis, and smoking cannabis.
- Authorize the cultivation of cannabis without a license by a patient only after Jan. 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.
- Qualifying illnesses include: HIV, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, epilepsy, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, autism, and other ailments.
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