Confidence in Utah’s Medical Marijuana Initiative is Waning

A proposed legislative compromise seems to be dulling support for Prop 2 in Utah.
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With less than a month until the election, recent polls show that support has faded for Utah’s medical marijuana ballot measure, particularly among members of the Church of Latter-day Saints. Many attribute the change to a pledge made by the governor and cannabis advocates to push through a legislative compromise regardless of voters’ conclusion on Prop 2.

The Salt Lake Tribune-Hinckley Institute of Politics poll suggests that slightly above 50 percent of Utah voters now support the ballot measure, a 15 percent dip from a similar survey conducted in June. Though 35 percent of the most recent poll’s respondents still indicated that they are strongly in favor of Prop 2, a full 46 percent said they were in opposition and only three percent stated that they had yet to form an opinion.

It would appear that Salt Lake City’s scripture-quoting pro-Prop 2 billboard has not been able to convince the state’s massive Mormon population. Members of the Church of Latter-day Saints showed a dramatic decrease in support for the measure. Among those who identified as very active in the church community, the percentage of individuals who said they were strongly in favor dipped from 25 to 11 percent between June and October. The drop is unlikely to be due to their church’s opposition, which has been constant throughout the ballot measure campaign. 55 percent of active members stated in the survey that the church’s position made no difference in how they personally planned on voting.

Why The Sudden Dip?

Hinckley Institute director Jason Perry told the Salt Lake Tribune that fading support is most likely due to Governor Gary Herbert’s recent announcement, which had to do with an agreement with state leaders and marijuana advocates that a special legislative session will be held next month. The session, Herbert says, will come up with a separate plan for Utah medical marijuana that would involve a state-run distribution system or a limited number of “cannabis pharmacies.” Opponents have taken Prop 2 to task for its “Wild West format,” expressing concern that it does not guard against black market sales, and surmising that the plan would lay the groundwork for recreational marijuana in the state.

The tentative agreement hyped by the governor would axe timeline guarantees from the ballot measure. It also promises to expand access in certain regards, allowing patients without easy access to a dispensary to grow their own weed and giving non-card holders who meet certain criteria a legal defense should they be faced with drug charges.

But not all are convinced that the plan is trustworthy when it comes to increasing access to marijuana for those who need it, citing the legislature’s reluctance to pass cannabis bills in the past. “[Lawmakers] could write the most perfect cannabis bill across the nation and I still would not trust that they are actually going to implement it,” commented Christine Stenquist, founder of cannabis advocacy organization TRUCE, to High Times earlier this month.

The Tribune-Hinckley Institute poll found the highest level of support for the ballot measure back in January, when 76 percent of respondents indicated they would vote for Prop 2. This most recent inquiry polled 822 registered voters between October 3 to 9 and October 11 to 12, and has a 3.4 percentage point margin of error.

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