Home Legislative Medical Cannabis Faces an Uphill Battle in Utah

Medical Cannabis Faces an Uphill Battle in Utah


In the spring of 2017, a group called the Utah Patients Coalition was approved to start gathering signatures for a medical marijuana ballot initiative – and they were successful in gaining the needed number of signatures. Unfortunately, they have been fighting a difficult battle from the very beginning in the conservative state, with lots of opposition from various organizations and agencies within the state.

“This is a Republican state, a conservative state and a moderate Republican governor and a very conservative Republican legislature are opposed to it,” political science professor David Magleby said. “And then there’s the LDS church that’s involved. For some people I think that position is going to be definitive.”

Most recently, a lawsuit was filed by an anti-legalization group called Drug Safe Utah, which is led by the Utah Medical Association and a handful of law enforcement agencies and other officials. In their attempt to block voters from getting their say on the matter, the group asked a judge for an emergency ruling to stop the initiative. But this week, they decided to drop their lawsuit.

As it turns out, the Assistant Utah Attorney General David Wolf had asked the judge to throw out their request for an emergency restraining order on the initiative – and Lt. Governor Spencer Cox’s attorneys called the coalition’s request “an unorthodox pre-enactment challenge to an initiative that has yet to be put to a vote.”

“With this frivolous lawsuit dropped now by Drug Safe Utah, the patients and advocates of cannabis reform in Utah are one step closer today to giving medical patients access to their medicine, without being criminalized, than we were yesterday,” said DJ Schanz, director of the Utah Patients Coalition.

The ballot initiative aims to legalize full strength cannabis products (with higher than 0.3 percent THC) in the forms of edibles, topicals and oils – but would not allow smokable marijuana. It would require that doctors adhere to a list of qualifying conditions, and overall is not an extremely loose or overreaching medical marijuana law.

Unfortunately, groups like Drug Safe Utah are doing their best to make it look like a plan to slowly transition into recreational legalization, rather than a plan to allow people access to the medicine they need for a better quality of life.

While the conservative lawmakers and groups are feeling certain that they can change the minds of voters before the November election, those responsible for the ballot initiative in the first place are just as confident. Polls show that support has dropped some in recent months – but not quite below a passing threshold – and there are still months until the election for them to properly educate voters.