Group to begin signature-gathering for medical marijuana in Utah

Advocate group must collect around 115,000 signatures

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 Utah) – Medical marijuana advocates say they’ve been given the go ahead to start collecting signatures to get the issue on the 2018 ballot. 
 
The Utah Patients Coalition will start collecting signatures next week and the group believes it has enough support to get it passed. 
 
Not only do they have to collect around 115,000 signatures, but there has to be a certain percentage from each part of the state. 
 
After it failed multiple times in the legislature, supporters say they want to take the issue directly to the voters where they have growing support. 
 
The Utah Patients Coalition says they're excited to start collecting signatures to get medical marijuana on the 2018 ballot. 
 
Campaign Director DJ Schanz says polls have been going in their favor for years, and he believes compromises made in the language will get people on board.
 
"One of the big concessions that really makes this the Utah way is that you can't smoke this. You're not going to see people smoking joints. They can't use this in public regardless. So there is no smoking and there is no home grow,” said Schanz.
 
Although getting an initiative on the ballot in Utah is difficult. Supporters have to get enough signatures in 26 of the state's 29 senate districts. The number of signatures required in each district is 10 percent of the number of voters who took part in the last presidential election...which in 2016 was the highest turnout in state history.
 
Political experts believe this has a good shot of getting on the ballot because it's been such a talked about issue for years.
 
"This is an effort for the people of the state of Utah to take matters into their own hands, get something on the ballot and let Utahns have a say,” said Jason Perry, Director of Hinckley Institute of Politics. 
 
The group hopes to collect around 115 thousand signatures, which has to be done by April, although, organizers say they want to do it before January when the legislative session gets underway.
 
"To send a clear message that this is going to be decided on by the people and not the monkey business of the legislature,” said Schanz.  
 
The group plans to partially use volunteers and pay a company to help collect those signatures. Experts say this effort could also give a hit to whether or not initiatives will become a bigger part of local politics in the future. 

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