Voters in one of the nation’s most conservative states have opted to legalize medical marijuana,
With roughly 60 percent of precincts reporting on Tuesday night, Salt Lake City’s local Fox affiliate projected that Utah’s medical cannabis ballot measure was approved.
Approval of the question by voters, however, should give a boost to efforts by legalization supporters to hold lawmakers and Gov. Gary Herbert (R) to follow through on their pledge to enact patient access in a special legislative session before the end of the year.
“The passage of Proposition 2 illustrates just how broad support has grown for medical marijuana in the U.S.,” Matthew Schweich, deputy director of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), said. “Even in socially conservative states like Utah, most voters recognize marijuana has significant medical value, and they believe it should be available to patients who could benefit from it.”
As written in the ballot measure, qualified patients with physician approval would be issued state identification cards and be allowed to purchase two ounces of medical marijuana or products containing 10 grams of cannabidiol or tetrahydrocannabinol from a dispensary during any two-week period.
Patients who don’t live within 100 miles of a dispensary would be able to cultivate six cannabis plants at home, and the measure would create an affirmative defense that could be used by patients before official state ID cards become available. Patients would be able to designate caregivers to assist with the growing, obtaining and administration cannabis.
Smoking medical marijuana would not be allowed under the measure, however.
The state would issue licenses for medical cannabis cultivation, processing, testing and dispensing businesses. Municipalities would be allowed to regulate, though not ban, medical marijuana businesses.
Sales would be exempt from sales taxes, and revenues generated by licensing fees would go toward covering implementation and regulation costs.
But the compromise, as detailed by stakeholders last month, would scale back some provisions. For example, it would not allow for any home cultivation, authorizes fewer dispensaries and contains a shorter list of qualifying medical conditions.
“It is our hope that Utah’s politicians will respect the will of the electorate and move swiftly to enact The Utah Medical Cannabis Act in a manner that comports with both the spirit of the law and the letter of law,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said.
Schweich, of MPP, agreed.
“We supported the compromise legislation that was agreed to by the governor, legislative leaders, and some of our opponents because we wanted to ensure an effective medical cannabis law is enacted this year and doesn’t get delayed or torpedoed during the implementation process,” he said. “Now that the election is over, it’s time for Utah’s political leaders to uphold their promise and implement a workable medical cannabis law as soon as possible.”