Medical Marijuana Initiative Supporters Claim Victory With 48,000 Vote Lead
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Supporters of a medical marijuana initiative claimed victory late Tuesday, though votes were still being counted in multiple counties.
“I think as the legendary sportscaster Chick Hearn said, ‘the Jell-O’s jiggling in the refrigerator, this party’s over!’” proclaimed DJ Schanz, director of the Utah Patients Coalition. “Patients are going to have access to medical cannabis in Utah. This is a win for patients; this is a win for Utah here tonight.”
Schanz’ proclamation appeared to hold true into early Wednesday morning. Prop 2, also known as the Utah Medical Cannabis Act, was leading by a 53 to 46 percent margin, or by more than 48,000 votes.
“Ultimately, it’s a statement to free thought, it’s a statement that these patients aren’t criminals,” Schanz said. “We’re ecstatic right now.”
The watch party held at the Infinity Event Center wasn’t the only one in support of Prop 2 in the Salt Lake Valley.
Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education (TRUCE) held an event at the Salt Lake City Marriott University Park, citing differences with the other group over support of compromise legislation.
“We felt a sense of mistrust, we felt like trust was broken when there were talks of a compromise and talks of replacement bills without our knowledge and our understanding of why this was going on,” said Christine Stenquist of TRUCE.
The 126-page compromise legislation surfaced as lawmakers and others, including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, raised concerns about the initiative.
That legislation establishes pharmacies instead of dispensaries, limits the forms that medical marijuana can take, and does not include a clause allowing far-away users to grow their own plants.
“I think the October surprise was political theater to undermine our efforts and I think by people turning out and showing that vote is strong — this is still something we want them to take care of and want them to still keep talking about,” Stenquist said.
House Speaker Greg Hughes said Tuesday evening that he was committed to seeing the process through, addressing the issues with Prop 2 in a special session before the end of the year.
“We did say whether Prop 2 passed or failed that we would move forward with this broad-based agreement,” Hughes said. “I want those critics to eat their words. I want to show that we will actually move forward as we have committed to — the governor, the senate president and myself. We’ve committed to move forward with this comprehensive, broad-based legislation.”
Hughes said because the initiative must become law before lawmakers can make changes to it, a special session may not happen until the end of the month or early December.
Supporters at the Infinity Event Center also cautioned lawmakers about making significant changes to the Utah Medical Cannabis Act.
“If they mess with the law, they mess with the people now,” said Greg Stertz. “This is the people’s vote and this is what the people want.”
Stenquist acknowledged the significance of a victory at the polls Tuesday, even if some uncertainty is still ahead.
“No matter what the actual poll numbers show, we won as Utahns,” Stenquist said. “We’ve gotten some of the biggest voices in this state talking about medical cannabis, so that’s a win no matter how you look at it.”
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