A group of activists in Utah, called the Utah Patients Coalition, received approval from the state last week to begin collecting signatures for their proposed ballot initiative, the Utah Medical Cannabis Act. The initiative, which would become law if passed by voters in 2018, would allow people with specific conditions to use medical marijuana with a physician’s recommendation – however, smoking and home growing would both remain illegal, even for patients.
The group managed to collect 1,000 signatures at a Willie Nelson concert already, and will be kicking off full-force in Salt Lake City at the Gallivan Center. The group will need a minimum of 113,143 signatures in 26 of the state’s 29 senate districts in order to get medical marijuana on the ballot during the 2018 election. This will mean gathering an excess of signatures to account for those that will end up being invalid.
“We plan to gather the first signatures by next week and be finished prior to the 2018 legislative session in January,” said DJ Schanz, campaign co-director for Utah Patients Coalition. “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 Utah Patients Coalition is confident that they will have enough dedicated volunteers to ensure that they are able to gather the number of signatures needed in time. State lawmakers may consider medical marijuana before the election – especially if the ballot initiative is already expected to be on the ballot. They could use this to their advantage to pass a less comprehensive plan and convince voters that they are addressing the issue – or perhaps they won’t end up passing anything at all.
“I did the illegal thing. I went to Colorado and got what I needed,” said Scott Kingsbury, who has arthritis. “Personally, I’m off of five of six prescription medicines and, personally, I think it’s a matter of freedom. It’s a matter of choosing what I want to put in my body.”
One thing is for certain: patients in Utah know that they want the right to use medical marijuana if it will help them. While the law will not allow smoking or home growing, it will still provide many patients access to a safer alternative to potentially harmful pharmaceuticals.