Utah’s medical marijuana campaign kicks off with a ‘tailwind of support’

(The Salt Lake Tribune | Kathy Stephenson) Supporters of Proposition 2 picked up T-shirts and lawn signs during a kick-off rally in Midvale.

Midvale • Red and white lawn signs promoting Proposition 2 bent with every gust of wind, but they didn’t break or blow away.

Organizers of Utah’s medical marijuana initiative — which on Saturday officially kicked off its campaign — consider that a good omen.

“We think we’ve got a good tailwind of support behind us," said DJ Schanz, with the Utah Patient Coalition that organized the event at the Overstock.com headquarters here. The all-ages event, which included music, food trucks and bounce houses, attracted hundreds of supporters who picked up T-shirts and lawn signs to distribute in advance of the November election.

(The Salt Lake Tribune | Kathy Stephenson) Angie Rivera and her 14-year-old daughter, Faith Corbin, who has a brain tumor, were among several hundred Utahns who showed their support for Proposition 2 on Saturday.

Faith Corbin — who has a slow-growing brain tumor — came with her mother and younger siblings. The 14-year-old isn’t old enough to cast a ballot, but is anxiously awaiting the vote.

“We’re hoping it passes,” said her mother, Angie Rivera. “We’ve heard a lot of things about the effect it has on tumors."

Carolyn Bayly, of Lehi, is in a similar situation. She takes seven medications for her multiple sclerosis, and many of the drugs have negative side effects. “I don’t know if [medical marijuana] would be effective for me,” she said, after picking up several T-shirts. “But I’d like my doctor to have the option to prescribe it.”

Bayly said she is connected through social media to many MS patients throughout the country “who are being treated with medical cannabis successfully.”

If approved by Utah voters, Proposition 2 would allow patients with a doctor’s recommendation to obtain a medical marijuana card and purchase cannabis products from privately owned dispensaries. Thirty other states have similar laws.

A Dan Jones and Associates poll, conducted for UtahPolicy.com, found 64 percent of likely voters to be “somewhat” or “strongly” in support of the measure.

(The Salt Lake Tribune | Kathy Stephenson) Utahns who support Proposition 2 picked up their lawn signs and T-shirt during a rally Saturday.

However, several groups, including the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Drug Safe Utah Coalition — made up of medical experts, clergy, law enforcement, educators and business leaders — are opposed and say the initiative as written lacks procedural safeguards.

“We are aware of many in our neighborhoods who seek relief from pain and suffering and are moved with empathy by stories of children who endure debilitating seizures and other medical conditions," said Marty Stephens, the church’s director of community and government relations. “The church supports medicinal use of marijuana, so long as proper controls and safeguards are in place.

“In the spirit of compromise,” he added, "we urge a timely, safe and compassionate approach to providing medical marijuana for those in need without the harmful effects that will come if Proposition 2 becomes law.”

The most recent comments by Stephens vary from an August statement, issued by Elder Jack N. Gerard of the Seventy, which said the church “does not object to the medicinal use of marijuana, if doctor-prescribed, in dosage form, through a licensed pharmacy.”

Most states with medical marijuana laws have private dispensaries, rather than pharmacies, that distribute cannabis products containing the psychoactive ingredient THC.

Doctors also aren’t allowed to prescribe marijuana. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in June approved the first medication that’s derived from cannabis, a federally illegal plant that 31 states have legalized for medicinal use.

Jeremy Newsome, of Magna, hopes Utahns can join as state No. 32. “I’m here for the kids who should get what they need to live,” he said. “How could you not want them to have that option?”