Utah voters could decide in 2018 whether to legalize medical marijuana

Medical marijuana | Stock photo, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – Supporters for medical marijuana recently got the green light from the Utah lieutenant governor’s office allowing them to gather signatures needed for a ballot initiative aimed at putting the measure to a vote in the 2018 election.

Petitioners with the Utah Patients Coalition must collect a minimum of 113,000 signatures in 26 of the state’s 29 senate districts by January to get the proposed Utah Medical Cannabis Act on the ballot.

The group has scheduled a petition drive from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday at the Hilton Garden Inn, 1731 S. Convention Center Drive, St. George.

If passed, physicians would be given the go-ahead to prescribe cannabis for certain specified medical conditions. Some of the proposed qualifying medical conditions include Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain and autism. Recreational use would remain illegal.

The proposed initiative would allow limited numbers of dispensaries and cultivators. The placement of those facilities would be largely dictated by local zoning laws governing the footage between the buildings and any nearby schools or churches.

The drug would be highly controlled by the state and would likely have an established cap on the amount of medical cannabis patients can transport bringing it in line with a common 30-day supply on pharmacy drugs.

Public use would be prohibited as would driving while intoxicated by medical cannabis. Likewise, home cultivation and smoking marijuana by patients would not be permitted.

Topical products, oils, edibles and vaping supplies would be permissible under the measure.

The approval to gather signatures by Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox followed several extensive meetings with election officials, state taxing authorities, and legal and budget analysts for Gov. Gary Herbert. There were also 10 public hearings held across the state.

Read more: Medical marijuana advocates file 2018 ballot initiative

Supporters of the initiative made two technical changes to the measure, based on feedback they received in the meetings with state officials, including removing a provision on tax deductions, in part, because it would have required a legal interpretation of federal tax law and action by state tax authorities.

Advocates said they plan to revisit the issue with lawmakers and the state Tax Commission if the ballot initiative passes.

For many supporters, legalizing marijuana isn’t about having the chance to get high, Dave Cromar, Utah Patients Coalition volunteer, said, but about healing their bodies to be able to live a functional life.

“I don’t know one person who uses cannabis for medical purposes who is looking to get high,” Cromar said. “They’re looking to just have a life, for clarity and for the ability to function like a normal person.”

Cromar has a 10-year-old son who suffers from severe epileptic seizures and after dozens of failed attempts to find medication, he said, he finally surrendered and placed his son on the cannabis oil. The boy’s life improved immediately.

“We had no life. Our son had no quality of life before we found the cannabis oil,” Cromar said. “Our son (was) unresponsive before, sleeping all day. He was unemotional and very much in a zombie state. But that all changed – all of it – when we got him off all those medications and started using the oil.”

Barry Short, a coalition volunteer, has seen close friends “healed” from severe conditions and diseases after using the cannabis, often, following a long history of taking other medications that all failed.

Short, the vice chair for Utah’s Libertarian Party, said he would like to see marijuana legalized for both medical and recreational uses.

“I don’t think the government has any business telling anyone what they can put in their bodies,” he said.

A former political candidate, Short said he thinks Utahns will pass the initiative once it’s on the ballot.

As to whether or not legalizing marijuana medically will eventually open the door to the legalization of recreational use, Short said he doesn’t think so, adding that he believes Utah will be one of the last holdouts in the nation.

“I think they will make marijuana legal but it’s probably going to be awhile,” Short said.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, if the initiative passes Utah will become the 30th state as of July to legalize medical marijuana in some form, including its bordering states such as Nevada, Arizona and Colorado. The District of Columbia has also passed laws making the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes legal.

A summary of the initiative can be found on the Utah Patients Coalition’s website.

To sign the petition, donate or get involved in helping gather signatures the Utah Patients Coalition maintains a volunteer list with contacts throughout the state.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @tracie_sullivan

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.


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  • ladybugavenger September 8, 2017 at 9:26 am

    How does the legalization of medical marijuana affect employment drug testing?

    Will employers still hire someone using medical marijuana?

    • NickDanger September 8, 2017 at 11:24 am

      “How does the legalization of medical marijuana affect employment drug testing?”

      It does not affect it at all. There are thousands of cases all over the country of people using their legally-prescribed and obtained marijuana for medical purposes then losing their job, or just as often being unable to find a job in the first place because of pre-employment screening. Hopefully at some point, the “corpotocracy” will get on-board with the views of most citizens of the country. But they are under no obligation to do so.

      I’ve always found it interesting that employers are even allowed to screen for marijuana. It isn’t like alcohol, where the presence of the substance indicates a current level of intoxication. It’s essentially a lifestyle intrusion, since you could have smoked it any time in the last month and still have the indicator in your system.

      I don’t use marijuana myself. But I certainly wouldn’t consider recent use of marijuana as a disqualifier for employment if I were still running a company. If someone shows up high to an interview, that’s another matter entirely. And there are certainly some drugs I’d want to know about via screening. But marijuana isn’t one of them.

      My grandmother died of gall bladder cancer a few years ago. Nothing relieved her pain except hard opioids, and she never had an appetite, had to force herself to eat. She was like a zombie, all day and night. She lived in a state where no medical marijuana was available, and sweet little Christian lady that she was, she had never smoked it before, nor was she even aware of it as a medical option. But my brother and I got her some anyway, from a neighboring state’s dispensary, in the form of some chewy edibles.

      It instantly changed her life for the better. Her pain was much less (or perhaps she just wasn’t focusing on it as much – either way works), and her appetite returned with a vengeance. The last months of her life were entirely more comfortable because of our little illegal venture. I regret nothing.

      So I will be voting Yes. With prejudice.

    • theone September 8, 2017 at 11:33 am

      It would be the same as we do for alcohol, come to work stoned get fired.
      I personally say legalize it across the whole country.

      • LocalTourist September 8, 2017 at 12:08 pm

        I would give you a thumbs up or a smiley face if I could.
        Common sense goes a long way, working impaired is never smart… but then, being fired for use “just because you use” is wrong, too. Plenty of people work every day that would test positive, but they’re not impaired.
        But I’m with you. Legalize.

    • bikeandfish September 8, 2017 at 3:53 pm

      What they need to do is start implementing testing that gauges actual blood levels and not long term metabolites. But those are cost prohibitive.

      As a manager I never cared about any use that didn’t affect work. But if you showed up to work high or hungover we had a different situation. And I know workman’s comp tests for any sign of use and will deny coverage on work place accidents if found positive.

      We know marijuana provides medical benefits for certain issues and comes with fewer side effects than legal substances like alcohol. It’s time to reform but long term will be a painful transition with a lot of heated rhetoric.

  • LocalTourist September 8, 2017 at 12:06 pm

    Sadly, Nick is right…a private employer can do anything they want regarding drug testing.

    This ballot initiative does NOT allow smoking, does NOT allow home growing, does NOT give a patient the right to drive while impaired. People are already driving impaired on their prescribed Zoloft, prozac, and Oxy, but opponents arent concerned about that I guess. Opponents also say passage of medical leads to recreational, although Arizona has already proven that false (rec has been defeated twice at the ballot box).

    Even the horror stories told by Southwest Utah Public Health about stoned kids and drivers is proven untrue by Colorado’s own state stats. Gov Hickenlooper disproved practically every stat Jeff Sessions threw at him. http://kdvr.com/2017/08/24/hickenlooper-pot-letter-to-attorney-general-defends-state-law-offers-cooperation/

    Law enforcement wants to hold onto outdated blood draw technology, that finds a person guilty of use even when the use was a couple weeks ago, and they are not currently impaired. They’re ignoring newer technology that correlates recent weed use to impairment: https://houndlabs.com/ It reduces the window of consumption to 12 hours, which is (while not entirely accurate), a lot closer than 2 weeks.

    This WILL make it to the ballot, and it’ll most likely pass. Thousands of patients will have another choice to discuss with their doctor besides opiates and other meds that havent worked for them.

  • DRT September 8, 2017 at 12:16 pm

    While I am definitely for legalization, both medical and recreational, I have to take the claims of “instant” healing with a grain of salt. I can believe that it brings relief however.
    I’ve also got a question about the statement in the article that said ” in line with a common 30-day supply on pharmacy drugs.” Where does the author come up with the 30 day statement? My mail order drugs are for a 90 day period.

    • Barry September 8, 2017 at 1:29 pm

      DRT, in Utah a number of medications (mostly opiates) are now being limited to 30 day supplies. Not all , but some. They not only require filling the prescription monthly, but are requiring a visit to the doctor in order to get the prescription filled, which means that you’ve added the cost of an office visit, around $100. In some cases these are patients who may have been taking the same medication and dosage for several years. The limitation is urged as a part of the “War on Opiates” that we’re getting engaged in – the theory being that if you have more than a 30 day supply there’s a greater chance of part of the supply being sold or stolen.

      • DRT September 8, 2017 at 4:32 pm

        Thank you for a straight forward answer, Barry! 🙂

      • great success September 8, 2017 at 7:09 pm

        Yes this is true. It’s why heroin also is trending upward in Utah along with prescription opioids. A person can physically become dependent on prescription opioids in under 2 weeks. That means, when they’re cut off, or supply runs out, they undergo withdrawals and become very ill. Some deal with the withdrawals, but others resort to either playing doctors or even buying oxy on the street. This is the most expensive route to opiate euphoria they soon realize. This is when heroin comes into play. People who weeks, months or years back that would have never in their wildest dreams thought they’d become a heroin user, become heroin users. It’s cheaper, it’s a better opiate high, and breaking free becomes insurmountable by that point.

  • Barry September 8, 2017 at 12:47 pm

    Yes, these answers are correct. How an employer handles it will be up to the employer. More than likely, what would play out is that how employers would react would depend on whether or not what the employee did had any effect on their job performance. There would be insurance liability issues if you employ heavy equipment operators, for example, or drivers – but then we already have a serious amphetamine problem among long-haul drivers, and we’ve learned something about how to deal with it. On the other hand, if a junior accountant at some firm has a joint and a bag of tacos on Saturday night, that’s not likely to impact his or her employer in any manner.

    It might result in some jobs requiring higher pay. If you hire me, you get 100% while I’m on the clock. If you want control of my life while I’m not on the clock, there’s going to be a charge for that.

  • youcandoit September 8, 2017 at 10:19 pm

    I just want to say take whatever works best for you just do it responsibly. There is an enzyme liver test you can check to see what your liver will break down.

  • Michael September 9, 2017 at 9:33 am

    Actual impairment should be tested, not just exposure to a drug.

    It is important that per se laws specifying THC blood limits not be included in any cannabis-related legislation. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration acknowledges that THC blood levels do not predict impairment. Impairment testing is what is needed, and people should not drive if they are impaired.

    I have developed a new public health app that measures actual impairment–it is called DRUID (an acronym for “DRiving Under the Influence of Drugs”) available now in the Apple App Store (Android version coming soon). DRUID measures reaction time, decision making, hand-eye coordination, time estimation and balance, and then statistically integrates hundreds of data points into an overall impairment score. DRUID takes just 2 minutes.

    DRUID allows cannabis users (or others who drink alcohol, use prescription drugs, etc.) to self-assess their own level of impairment and (hopefully) decide against driving if they are impaired. Prior to DRUID, there was no way for an individual to accurately assess their own level of impairment. DRUID also demonstrates that it is feasible to measure impairment reliably by the roadside, not just exposure to a drug. It could also be a way for cannabis users who have developed tolerance to show they are unimpaired.

    DRUID was featured on NPR’s All Things Considered: http://www.npr.org/2017/01/25/511595978/can-sobriety-tests-weed-out-drivers-whove-smoked-too-much-weed

    Also on television: http://sacramento.cbslocal.com/2017/02/28/science-lags-behind-marijuana-impairment-testing/

    After obtaining my Ph.D. at Harvard, I have been a professor of psychology at UMass/Boston for the past 40 years, specializing in research methods, measurement and statistics.

    Michael Milburn, Professor
    Department of Psychology

    Ed. ellipsis.

  • utahdiablo September 9, 2017 at 12:52 pm

    If You need Pot, drive to Mesquite, Wendover, Colorado, or Arizona….you already have plenty of outlets

    • bikeandfish September 10, 2017 at 4:17 pm

      But then it still would be illegal to use it for medical purposes in Utah. That is not a solution for folks who can be helped with a prescription. Nor is traveling out of state an option for many people, especially when you have high medical costs associated with many of the issues marijuana helps.

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