political | 10.30.2018

The State of Cannabis in: Utah

Adrian Daniel Schramm


Utah is generally a conservative state, supported by the large Mormon population living there. Just because much of the state follows a more fringe religion, however, doesn’t make them unreceptive to the legalization of marijuana.

Under current Utah law, anyone can legally use CBD oil -- which is technically prohibited at the federal level, but is nonetheless sold widely in Utah.

And further evidence indicates that statewide views of cannabis use in general may be starting to relax as well.

State senator gets a little high

To give you an idea of where Utah might be headed, take a look at this headline from USA Today about Utah state senator Jim Dabakis’ trip to Nevada: Utah lawmaker tries marijuana for the first time on video: 'I just felt a little high'.

During the state senator’s visit to Las Vegas he decided to try an edible gummy as a “sacrifice for you, the [Utah] taxpayers."

After the experience Dabakis told USA Today, "I think the reefer madness crowd – you guys, you need to try it. It's not that big a deal."

Clearly, some people in Utah’s government aren’t teetotalers.

Utah Proposition 2

Utah Proposition 2, the Medical Marijuana Initiative, is on the ballot in Utah as an initiated state statute on November 6, 2018. The vote will determine whether Utah will legalize the medical use of marijuana for individuals with qualifying medical illnesses.

Although current polls indicate a slight majority support, the initiative is not without strong opposition.

Who is against the proposition? The Utah Medical Association warns that the proposition would essentially usher in recreational use of marijuana by taking away state safeguards against it.

In addition, a recently announced coalition of law enforcement representatives, faith-based organizations, prominent civic leaders and others trying to kill the measure have spoken out in opposition of the initiative. They advocate replacing it with legislation they say could help those in need without jeopardizing youth and others. According to Deseret News, these groups say that Utahns' compassion for those who suffer is being exploited by a deceptive effort to make the use of marijuana exceptionally difficult to regulate in any context.

Detractors of Proposition 2 are concerned that the initiative does not have sufficient provisions in place for:

Exactly who qualifies for medical marijuana;

Age restrictions- the current initiative would allow children to use medical marijuana;

What rules are in place for doctors;

Who can grow marijuana and in what quantities; and

How it would affect landowners.

Opponents of Proposition 2 essentially believe that the initiative is too vague and fraught with opportunities to exploit the bill and create a totally unregulated cannabis industry in Utah.

Provisional medical marijuana agreement

Support for the bill dropped significantly earlier this month, slipping to just 51 percent support and 46 percent opposition, according to a Salt Lake Tribune/Hinckley poll. A big decline in support among active members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sticks out in the survey.

According to Jason Perry, the Hinckley Institute’s director, the drop-in support for Proposition 2 is likely due to the recent creation of a special arrangement agreed upon by the Utah House of Representatives concerning medical marijuana. While the legalization of medical marijuana exerts wide appeal, the specifics of the current initiative had alienated some people, he said. It is likely that many Utahns now support the new provisional agreement and therefore do not feel obligated to support Proposition 2.

How the industry will run and the details concerning its legality will be determined by whether or not Proposition 2 passes. However, regardless of the results, medical marijuana is sure to be legal in the state of Utah sooner rather than later.

After all, the state's slogan is "Life Elevated."

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