Two decades ago, just six states had laws on the books allowing for medical marijuana. The number is now up to thirty-six. If you were to insist that Utah is among the remaining fourteen states where medical marijuana is not legal, you would be wrong. Utah is in the majority on this one. Their ballot proposition okaying medical marijuana was passed in 2018.
News of the proposition’s passage was earth-shattering at the time. More than two years later, it is still earth-shattering to some extent. Utah is one of the most religious and conservative states in the country. They still hold to values the rest of the country set aside a long time ago. For them to embrace weed in any form is remarkable.
To be clear, the fact that medical weed is legal in Utah does not make the state a marijuana wild west. Lawmakers turned Proposition 2 into a strict regulatory regime that controls everything from plant growth to retail dispensing. They intend to keep things that way.
For starters, Utah residents cannot just walk into a weed dispensary and buy a package of joints. One needs a legitimate medical cannabis card just to get in the door. And once in the door, a user is limited in the total volume of product they can buy. They are also compelled by law to speak to a pharmacist on the first visit.
Utahmarijuana.org says the strict nature of the state’s program reflects the fact that a number of lawmakers are still not on board with the idea of medical cannabis. They only went along with legislation because Prop 2 and a subsequent court order gave them no other choice.
This alone is earth-shattering to some degree. Imagine politicians being compelled to do something they do not want to do by way of voters who forced their hand with a ballot proposition. It is an example of democracy 101. But that’s not all there is to it.
Prop 2’s success didn’t make weed available the day after it was passed. Instead, lawmakers took nearly a year to come up with workable legislation that would comply with the proposition’s language. Believe it or not, the LDS church offered plenty of input during that time. They helped lawmakers craft the initial legislation that officially launched the state’s medical marijuana program in 2020.
Think about that for just a minute. As a state, Utah was birthed from a desire among LDS members to live freely and without government persecution or public discrimination. The church has historically taken great pride in its moral standing. For them to step up and participate in the process of crafting a medical marijuana law, they had to re-examine some of their long-held beliefs.
It has been suggested that Utah’s entry into the medical marijuana arena provides a model for other conservative states. Utah has given them a path forward as they face their own ballot propositions. Could it be that all fifty states will eventually have medical marijuana programs? It is possible. And if that ever becomes the case, we may be able to point to Utah as being partly responsible for it.
If you would have asked Utah lawmakers a decade ago whether or not medical marijuana would ever make it to their state, they would have told you ‘no’. That is what makes their program so earth-shattering. Utah was the last place anyone expected to see weed dispensaries. But there they are. It is an amazing thing to see.