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Poll shows strong support for medicinal cannabis in Utah

SALT LAKE CITY — More than three-fourths of Utahns say they support legalization of marijuana for medicinal use, including two-thirds of “very active” Mormons, according to a new poll.

Seventy-seven percent of Utahns surveyed said they “strongly” or “somewhat” favor making medicinal cannabis legal in Utah, the Dan Jones & Associates poll found.

The poll results come as backers of a ballot initiative to legalize medicinal cannabis in Utah continue to gather and verify signatures to put the issue before voters in November.

Medicinal cannabis advocate Christine Stenquist attributes the poll numbers the scores of volunteers who have worked to educate the public on medicinal cannabis, the proposed ballot initiative and recent action in the state Legislature.

“I think we’re an educated population on this topic,” said Stenquist, founder and president of  Together for Responsible Cannabis Use and Education, or TRUCE.

The Utah Patients Coalition has said enough signatures have been gathered but still need to be verified to land the measure on the ballot in November. If that happens and the initiative passes, it will create “a brick-and-mortar facility for patients to go and obtain medicinal cannabis,” Stenquist said.

Under the proposed ballot measure, a program would be set up where Utahns with specific medical conditions can get a recommendation to use medicinal cannabis from their doctor, with qualifying patients being issued cards to access approved dispensaries and possess legal product, she said.

“It will establish a safe and secure program for patients who need assess to this,” Stenquist said.

Conditions listed in the Utah Patients Coalition ballot measure include cancer, epilepsy, ALS, AIDS, chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder, she said.

The Utah Legislature this year passed a pair of bills sponsored by Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem — one allowing patients with six months or less to live to legally try cannabis, and another to put in place a process to supply the plant to those patients and researchers.

Under Daw’s legislation, “a doctor has to determine that (a patient has) six months to live, and he also has to determine — or at lease believe — that medical cannabis … would be potentially helpful to them.”

Daw’s bills, like the proposed ballot initiative, allow only for nonsmoking use of cannabis.

“Medical cannabis, in my mind and in the minds of most of my colleagues, is it’s in a dosable form. In other words, it’s a pill, it’s a jell cap, it’s a transdermal, maybe it’s an oil that’s vaped. … There’s nothing medical about smoking it.”

The no-smoking factor may explain the support of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Church leaders have cautioned its members against smoking for health reasons. In a June 2017 statement, the LDS Church noted the “legitimate questions regarding the benefits and risks of legalizing a drug that has not gone through the well-established and rigorous process to prove its effectiveness and safety.”

“Accordingly,” the statement continued, “we believe that society is best served by requiring marijuana to go through further research and the FDA-approved process that all other drugs must go through before they are prescribed to patients.”

Utahns, however, are making the case that government is moving too slowly on medicinal cannabis, resulting in the ballot initiative to advance the issue. In all, 66 percent of “very active” Mormons polled said they support the ballot measure, while 30 percent said they’re opposed.

Overall, 21 percent of Utahns said they oppose legalization of medicinal cannabis, with 3 percent undecided.

The poll of 609 adults Feb. 9-16 has a 4 percent margin or error.