Utah gov's opposition to medical marijuana initiative draws fire from activists

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Gov. Gary Herbert came out in strong opposition Thursday, March 29, to a citizen-led medical cannabis ballot initiative poised to make it onto November’s ballot. Whether his stance will diminish the measure’s public support remains to be seen.

DJ Schanz, director of the Utah Patients Coalition — the political issues committee backing the initiative — said the group is close to clearing the signature-gathering hurdle of 113,143 voter signatures statewide — in proper proportion from 26 of Utah’s 29 Senate districts. So far, county clerks have verified 122,000 names in appropriate numbers from 23 Senate districts. In a few remaining counties that work continues as the April 16 deadline approaches.

“There are multiple Senate districts that touch Weber County, and all those are verified,” Schanz confirmed Friday. 

Gathering of signatures is the initial step of a larger and somewhat daunting process

“Step two is running a traditional campaign to convince those on the fence — and to get the rest out to vote,” Schanz said. That will involve media buys, mailers and door knocking over the next six months.

But Schanz downplayed the impact of Herbert’s stance: “The governor’s statement doesn’t change anything for us, and honestly, we don’t think it will move the needle. We’re just going to go full steam ahead to get patients the medicine they need.”

In his statement Thursday, Herbert said the ballot initiative had significant flaws, lacking important safeguards regarding production and utilization. He also fears it could open the door for recreational use.

A recent Dan Jones & Associates poll showed public support for legalizing medical marijuana at 77 percent. And an unscientific Standard-Examiner Facebook poll posted for the week of March 5 showed support for the initiative at 96 percent. 

Herbert touted his recent signing of House Bill 197, which allows in-state

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