Utah is the latest 'red' state to consider medical marijuana. Yesterday, Utah's Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would allow for the use of marijuana for medical purposes. The bill is expected to go to the Senate floor early next week.
Senate Bill 259 from Sen. Mark B. Madsen would create a state registry of medical marijuana patients who could possess and use marijuana. The bill would also direct the state of Utah to issue licenses for cultivators, processors, and dispensaries to qualified patients.
“I am one step closer to legal access to my medicine,” said Christine Stenquist, a medical marijuana patient and executive director of Drug Policy Project of Utah. “Our elected leaders have an opportunity to help sick patients find relief and there is no excuse not to.”
“If medical marijuana can advance in Utah – with significant support from Mormons in and out of the legislature – it can advance anywhere in the U.S.,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Medicine is medicine, regardless of one’s politics, faith or views about drugs.”
Twenty-three states, one U.S. territory (Guam) and the District of Columbia have passed laws legalizing the use of marijuana for qualifying patients under state law. While state medical marijuana programs differ from one another in significant ways, most are tightly controlled programs regulated by the state departments of public health.
Since the 1990s, polls have consistently found support for medical marijuana ranging from 70 to 80 percent. Recent polls have found that two-thirds of Republicans believe federal officials should respect state laws on medical marijuana. In last year's election, Alaska became the first 'red' state to legalize marijuana for all adults 21 and over, while voters in Guam -- which is quite conservative politically, and home to a significant U.S. military presence -- resoundingly approved medical marijuana, confirming its broad support across the political spectrum.