In Utah, patients who would greatly benefit from medical marijuana have been waiting for lawmakers to approve legislation that would make the plant available to them. But over the last few years, multiple attempts to put a bill through have fallen short of making it into law. Sadly it was no different during this year’s session, as legislators denied a bill to make medical marijuana available to patients who qualify, but unanimously passed a bill to expand research into using cannabis as a medicine.
You can’t expect people to wait forever for something that has the potential to drastically improve their quality of life. And one activist group, Together for Responsible Use of Cannabis Education (TRUCE), has announced that they are going to be introducing a ballot initiative for the 2018 election that would legalize medical marijuana. While their initiative has not yet been completely drafted, it is expected to allow “whole plant” cannabis, allowing for products ranging from topical lotions and sprays to edibles, vaporizing and smoking.
“We are really, honestly answering a demand,” said Christine Stenquist of Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education (TRUCE). “The legislators have failed so the people are taking this up. This is a movement by the people, for the people, without a doubt.”
They should have the petition submitted and be approved to gather signatures by April. Luckily, polls show that they likely have the support from voters needed to pass such an initiative, but they also remind us that it is costly. In order to get the needed number of signatures to qualify for the ballot, most campaigns require hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations – which goes to things such as reimbursing volunteers for gas and food while they are out gathering signatures, for example.
On top of that, they still need funds for proper advertising, television and radio ads and more in order to get their message out to voters before the election. Citizens initiatives may be the best way for the people to say they are tired of waiting and beating around the bush when they decide it’s time for change – but it’s certainly an expensive venture in many states. Hopefully this group has plans in place for generating donations that will help to keep the campaign going through the 2018 election.
“We’re looking at $600,000 to $800,000 just for the signature-gathering portion of this,” she said. “Then there’s the other million-and-a-half that’s going to be advertising and making sure we get the message out.”
Some lawmakers are concerned about the potential of a ballot initiative, claiming that they have spent too much time debating over the issue to let the people make this call, adding that legalizing medical marijuana “requires a lot of feedback from a lot of people you can’t get with an initiative”. However, if lawmakers were truly concerned about patients and their right to alternative treatment, then they would have passed laws already based on the scientific evidence that has exponentially grown in the last decade to prove cannabis is useful as a medicine in many situations.
Since they haven’t come to that conclusion on their own, patients and advocates have taken matters into their own hands – as they have in several states, at this point. If they manage to get the funding they need to obtain signatures and advertising to put the message out there, the chances that this campaign gets their initiative to the ballot – and even passed on Election Day – are pretty good.