Many claim that the high number of citizen groups currently gathering signatures to place initiatives on the November ballot illustrates that the Legislature isn’t listening to what voters want.
With regard to medical marijuana, that sentiment is completely true.
Multiple polls last year showed that 76 percent of Utahns support legalizing medical marijuana. The Utah Legislature, though, doesn’t agree.
In a weak attempt to mollify voters, Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem, has introduced a “right to try” bill that would allow terminally ill patients to use marijuana grown and sold by the state and prescribed by a doctor or nurse. Lawmakers similarly attempted to quell the call for medical relief last year by passing legislation approving relevant research.
The Legislature’s attempt to undermine the ballot initiative’s popularity and support would work better if it actually enacted what Utahns want.
The problem is, Utah voters are in favor of using medical marijuana not just to ease the pain of death, but to improve the quality of life for patients with chronic pain. Daw’s efforts don’t go nearly far enough.
Luke Ramseth for the Salt Lake Tribune reported that the marijuana ballot initiative would allow patients to use medical marijuana not just for terminal illnesses, but also for chronic illnesses like “Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain and autism.” The initiative does not legalize recreational marijuana, and does not allow smoking marijuana, even for medicinal purposes.
Gov. Gary Herbert commented earlier this year that he believes Utah voters will legalize medical marijuana, either this year through the ballot initiative, or, if the Legislature does not legalize it, sometime in the near future. Instead of voting for the initiative, perhaps voters will replace legislators with those who support legalizing medical marijuana.
A majority of states – 29, as well as Washington, D.C., Guam and Puerto Rico – have already approved some sort of medical marijuana or its components. In fact, 64 percent of Americans, including 51 percent of self-identified Republicans, favor legalizing all forms of marijuana, not just medicinal.
Daw admitted, “[t]his is ... a very small toe in the water.” Too small, actually.
Approving the use of medical marijuana will not take us one step closer to recreational marijuana. It could actually save us from the dangerously addictive use of wide-spread and easily-available opioid drugs.
People are desperate for pain relief. If medical marijuana could help alleviate chronic pain and curb the growth of the opioid epidemic, legislators should support it.