First results: Medical marijuana initiative shows early support, backed by 58 percent of Utahns

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah voters are putting their weight behind medical marijuana, as early returns show 58 percent of the voters think it is a good idea, with 41 percent opposed.

About 150 Proposition 2 supporters gathered at the Infinity Event Center downtown Tuesday let up a loud cheer upon seeing favorable initial results on the initiative. In celebration, the Proposition 2 campaign, the Utah Patients Coalition, immediately began break-dancing.

The Infinity Event Center had the relaxed atmosphere of a self-assured campaign throughout the lead-up to the numbers being released, as supporters enjoyed pizza, talked and watched CNN on a large projector. Most who were looking on did not seem surprised at the results.

Regardless of the final outcome of the vote, however, state lawmakers are expected to convene soon in an effort to pass a compromise bill agreed to by major supporters and opponents of Proposition 2, effectively replacing the ballot initiative.

Utah voters’ day of decision on Proposition 2 comes after a drawn out and highly public battle over the future of medical marijuana in the state that saw a highly popular signature-gathering drive, which gobbled up more than 153,000 names, pitted against ardent opposition from influential medical, law enforcement and faith groups.

Opposition to the initiative intensified in late summer. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in August urged the state’s voters to reject Proposition 2 and emailed its Utah members with the same message.

At that time, the church joined a broad coalition that included state lawmakers, business leaders, the Utah Medical Association and the Utah Sheriff’s Association to say that while there is a recognizable benefit to medical marijuana, Proposition 2 did not include enough safeguards to protect against troublesome youth access and unfettered recreational use.

Beginning in September, Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes convened private talks between the initiative campaign, the Utah Medical Association, the church and others to see whether a compromise could be reached.

After dozens of hours of negotiations, the sides agreed to support the text of a compromise bill they drafted together, regardless of Proposition 2’s Election Day outcome, and rolled back campaign advertising purchases.

In announcing the compromise, they said it struck the right balance between ensuring access for patients while involving medical professionals more in patients’ purchase and use of marijuana and curbing opportunities for unenforced abuse.

Gov. Gary Herbert at the time announced a special session to be held shortly after the election to pass the compromise, and legislative leaders promised to do everything they can to make sure it is enacted.

Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem, who has had a hand in multiple pieces of marijuana-related legislation in recent years, said the understanding in the Utah House of Representatives is that in the event of voters approving Proposition 2, “that … puts us back to Dec. 3, when we can first reasonably meet” for a special session.

That’s because “the initiative does not legally come into effect until after the canvas,” Daw said, and “we can’t take any action to modify the initiative until after it …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Utah News


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