Editorial: Utahns should seize chance to legalize medical marijuana
The time has come for medical marijuana in Utah.
That’s hardly an audacious statement these days, as polls in recent years have shown broad support among Utahns for the concept. The more pertinent debate is whether Proposition 2, the statewide initiative that would legalize medical cannabis, is the right way to go about it.
Voters should answer that question with a “yes” vote in November.
Prop 2, put forth by a group called the Utah Patients Coalition, would allow people with a range of health conditions, such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and post-traumatic stress disorder, to obtain medical marijuana permits from doctors. Thousands of suffering Utahns, who have spent years clamoring for legalization, would benefit.
Critics of the initiative, such as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, though, say it doesn’t include proper safeguards and that it would lead to an increase in recreational marijuana use. Many would prefer to instead allow the Utah Legislature to craft an alternative to Prop 2, either in a special session before the end of the year or when lawmakers reconvene for their regular session in January.
Disregarding the dubious nature of the claims surrounding the supposed danger Prop 2 presents — the obvious rebuttal being that most people willing to abuse the system likely are already using marijuana recreationally — there’s a very good reason Utahns shouldn’t wait for the Legislature to act: It hasn’t so far.
In recent years, lawmakers have spent significant time discussing medical marijuana as public support for legalization has continued to increase. They’ve considered multiple bills. They’ve had countless discussions. They’ve pledged to find a solution.
They’ve passed no laws.
Given that track record, why should voters, who finally have the power to force the issue, leave it up to the Legislature once again?
Is Prop 2 perfect? That’s not likely, even though it’s hard to take opponents’ most sensational warnings seriously. But what piece of legislation is? Should the initiative pass, lawmakers should seek to amend and improve it where possible. But they’ve had their chances to make legal medical marijuana in Utah a reality. The time for waiting is over.
The urgency of the matter can be found in the stories of the Utah patients whose lives would be changed by access to cannabis. Jessica Reade Gleim is one of them. She participated in a panel discussion about Prop 2 in Park City last week and said that she can no longer continue to suffer through chronic pain while lawmakers search for a compromise.
“… I need a life,” she said during the event. “Today. We have been asking for this for more than four years. I need an answer. I need help.”
Come November, voters should take the matter into their own hands and do what the Legislature hasn’t: help her.