Advocates push to get medical marijuana on ballot as lawmakers get ready to debate bill

Posted at 11:05 PM, Feb 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-17 09:27:52-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- Dallas Sainsbury has found little relief in the prescribed medications she was given to battle Crohn’s disease.

"I've lost like upwards of 25 pounds, I've spent a good majority of the past six months in bed. I had to withdraw from school," Sainsbury said.

The University of Utah student has struggled with the inflammatory bowel disease for at least six months. At the suggestion of her doctor she decided to try medical marijuana. Knowing it is not legal in Utah, Sainsbury has made several trips to Colorado to purchase recreational marijuana, experimenting with the dose needed to treat her disease.  She said the impact has been tremendous.

On Tuesday, Sainsbury joined advocates at the Capitol pushing to get medical marijuana on the November ballot. To do so, more than 100,000 signatures or registered voters need to be collected by April 15.

The Church Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints originally released a statement Feb. 6 declaring its opposition to Sen. Mark Madsen's bill SB 73, which would legalize the whole plant. The Church stated they were not opposed to the competing bill SB 89, which would legalize extract with trace amounts of THC. Church officials released an updated statement Feb. 12.

People argue SB 89 isn’t enough.

"In the past several days we have heard claims that Senator Madsen's bill, the medical cannabis act, is dead on arrival," said Christine Stenquist, the President of TRUCE, a group backing legal medical marijuana in Utah.

Madsen had hoped groups pushing for medical marijuana would wait and give his bill a chance before striking out on their own.  He also hopes his colleagues will step up to support a bill he believes has wide popular backing.

"I would just hope that we would do the job that the people sent us here to do," Madsen said.

While the LDS Church does oppose his bill, Madsen claims it has not had a huge impact on its possible success or failure.

"It did cost me a vote. I lost one of my core, but we've absorbed that," he said.

Madsen's bill will likely be debated for the first time later this week.  If it appears doomed for failure, signature gathering could begin as soon as Friday.

"Honestly I think that's more realistic than getting it passed, unfortunately, which is really sad," Sainsbury said of legalizing medical marijuana through a ballot initiative.