Utah Votes Yes on Medical Marijuana Ballot Measure

It’s not the end of the story yet.
Utah Votes Yes on Medical Marijuana Ballot Measure
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Yesterday, Utahns voted yes on Proposition 2, thereby legalizing medical marijuana. The outcome represents a big win for cannabis, especially in light of the significant opposition medical marijuana has long faced in the state.

Medical Marijuana in Utah

As of late last night, reports indicated that Proposition 2 won with a 53 percent to 47 percent margin. As a result, the state has now legalized the use of marijuana for medical purpose.

More specifically, and as summarized by Forbes, Proposition 2 allows for a number of new changes. These include:

  • Patients with a qualifying health condition will now be allowed to access medical marijuana.
  • In order to obtain medical cannabis, patients will need a physician’s recommendation.
  • Those with a recommendation from their doctor will receive a medical marijuana card from the state.
  • Utah’s medical marijuana program will allow for a set number of dispensaries to operate throughout the state.
  • Patients will be allowed to purchase up to 10 grams of cannabis from a dispensary every two weeks.
  • Those who live far away from a dispensary will be allowed to grow up to six plants at home.
  • If necessary, patients will be allowed to have a designated caregiver to help obtain medical marijuana or grow plants.

Overcoming Challenges

Proposition 2’s victory comes after years of challenges for medical marijuana advocates in Utah. In fact, the state has seen several medical marijuana proposals in recent years derailed by powerful conservative groups.

Specifically, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (commonly known as the Mormon church), which is headquartered in Salt Lake City, has been arguably the most powerful opponent of medical marijuana.

In past years, church leaders have consistently spoken out against medical marijuana. And typically, these efforts have succeeded in defeating medical marijuana proposals.

This year was no different. In August, the Mormon church officially opposed Proposition 2. Further, the church explicitly urged its members and other Utah residents to vote against the proposition.

In addition to outspoken opponents like the Mormon church, Prop 2 faced other challenges this year. For example, a group of plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against Proposition 2.

Initially, the suit claimed legalizing medical marijuana would violate Mormons’ religious freedom. The lawsuit also claimed that allowing patients to consume medical marijuana would harm landlords.

Despite these and other challenges, popular support for medical marijuana has seen consistently high popular support. In fact, a poll from the beginning of the year found high levels of support among voters of all stripes. So much so, in fact, that 76 percent of adults said they supported the legalization of medical marijuana.

The Future of Medical Marijuana in Utah

Interestingly, powerful players in Utah had already reached a compromise medical marijuana deal before yesterday’s vote. In early October, state lawmakers, representatives from the Mormon church, and other leaders announced a compromise deal.

Experts expect this revised version of medical marijuana to be taken up in a special legislative session later this year. And although this revised version could end up overwriting Proposition 2, many marijuana advocates still see yesterday’s win as an important one.

“Approval of the question by voters, however, should give a boost to efforts by legalization supporters to hold lawmakers . . . to follow through on their pledge to enact patient access in a special legislative session before the end of the year,” Tom Angell wrote in an article published by Forbes.

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