The unintended consequences for Utah Republicans of not passing a meaningful medical cannabis bill

The unintended consequences for Utah Republicans of not passing a meaningful medical cannabis bill

Will citizen initiative for medical cannabis make 2016 the year of the Democrats in Utah?

Utah Senator Mark Madsen’s Medical Cannabis Act (SB73) hit a bump in the road when LDS Church spokesman Eric Hawkins released a statement expressing opposition to the bill. The statement read, in part, “Along with others, we have expressed concern about the unintended consequences that may accompany the legalization of medical marijuana. We have expressed opposition to Senator Madsen’s bill because of that concern.”

But what are the unintended consequences of not passing a medical cannabis bill?

Sure, you have those with medical issues who will continue to suffer or will be forced to use less effective, more dangerous medications to treat their conditions. This is a serious consequence of not passing medical cannabis, but I’d like to focus on another unintended consequence that most people have not considered: Republican swing districts could be in real trouble if the legislature doesn’t pass a serious medical cannabis bill.

I’ve heard (now confirmed through the Salt Lake Tribune) that medical cannabis proponents are already planning to run a citizens initiative, which means if requirements are met, Utahns will have a chance to vote for or against allowing Utahns to use cannabis for medical reasons.

I’m told there are already donors lined up to support the initiative, but even with very little money I believe they have enough grassroots support to gather the required number of signatures to make it on the ballot. There are enough people out there who are passionate enough about this issue that they will volunteer their time to make sure this becomes a reality.

So, let’s just say for the sake of speculation that it makes it on November’s ballot. That means there is going to be a lot of effort to get out the vote in support of the initiative. And they’ll be targeting the type of people who are most likely to support medical cannabis: young people and Democrats.

Surveys have shown that millennials are more than twice as likely to support marijuana legalization, and Democrats are almost 40% more likely than Republicans. Supporters of medical cannabis will be working hard to make sure those demographics get out and vote, and I believe they’ll be successful in getting people to vote who don’t normally vote, because there is so much passion surrounding this issue.

While this small change in voter demographics will likely have no effect on statewide races like Governor or U.S. Senate, it might have an impact in Mia Love’s race. And it will certainly have an impact on swing districts in Utah House and Senate races.

To get an idea of which GOP incumbents might be affected, I’ve compiled a list of close general election races from 2012 and 2014:

  • 4th Congressional District: Mia Love (R) 50.92%, Doug Owens 45.81% (difference of 7,511 votes)
  • Utah HD 30: Fred Cox (R) 50.38%, Michael D. Lee 49.62% (difference of 47 votes)
  • Utah HD 31: Sophia DiCaro (R) 52.3%, Larry Wiley 47.7% (difference of 195 votes)
  • Utah HD 33: Craig Hall (R) 58.78%, Elizabeth Muniz 41.22% (difference of 833 votes)
  • Utah HD 34: Johnny Anderson (R) 53.37%, Karen Kwan 46.63% (difference of 493 votes)
  • Utah HD 44: Bruce Cutler (R) 48.51%, Christine Passey 47.9% (difference of 53 votes)
  • Utah SD 8: Brian Shiozawa (R) 56.78%, Josie Valdez 43.22% (difference of 5,292 votes)

Utah Republicans have already given Utah Democrats enough help with the whole SB 54 infighting, I’m not sure they want to give Democrats another boost by allowing medical cannabis to go on the November ballot. 2016 is going be an interesting year for elections in Utah.

About author

Michael Jolley
Michael Jolley 29 posts

Michael has been active in Utah politics since 2009 and admits he still has a lot to learn. He lives in Provo with his wife Jessica and their two small children. Follow Michael on Twitter: @UTJolley

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  • Vauban

    You would think Libertarians, Independents and Republicans (more than a few Democrats too), who often mistrust the Federal Government, would be solidly behind SB0073 if for no other reason than US States rights. But there are other far more compelling reasons to pass this act:

    1) Reduce black market demand and fill the State’s coffers rather than drug lord’s.
    2) Reduce opioid related deaths
    3) Provide relief for patients-there are now thousands of case studies to prove it’s efficacy. We’re past mere anecdotal evidence
    4) Provide safe, pesticide/herbicide cannabis products to patients with known ingredients
    5) A pool of registered patients would provide #’s for further research with various strains/ratios
    6) Cannabis is a legitimate herbal supplement that US Senator Orin Hatch could support
    7) Patients seeking palliative relief from their diseases shouldn’t be considered criminals
    8) Medicinal Cannabis is not recreational cannabis-which is already abundant and readily available
    9) Taxes on the sale and distribution of cannabis can support alcohol and drug treatment programs
    10) Senator Madsen’s bill took the best of legislation from other states experiences with medical cannabis and crafted this bill accordingly. Great work Senator Madsen.

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