Four more states are poised to legalize recreational cannabis—with measures expected to pass in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota.
Joining Nevada and Colorado, Arizona is yet another Utah border state to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana for adults 21 and older.
“We’re still a relatively conservative state when you look at Nevada and Colorado,” said Christine Stenquist, founder of Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education (TRUCE). “We still have a long ways to go with our program.”
Now surrounded on the east, west and south by states with legalized marijuana, Utah sits in a unique position. The state has a medical marijuana program in place, that was recently modified from the original 2018 Utah Medical Cannabis Act earlier in the 2020 general session. Utah’s neighbors to the north, Idaho and Wyoming have no medical or recreational marijuana laws in place.
“The legislators and the church and opponents who didn’t want cannabis to pass in this state wanted a program that wasn’t going to be easily accessible for patients,” said Stenquist, who is advocating for changes to the modifications that were put in place earlier this year. “We have limited licenses which means we have a limited market. “We don’t see accessibility and we don’t see affordability.”
Stenquist isn’t sold on the idea of the medical program as it stands today. “I worry that people are a little romanticizing that we have dispensaries and grows and they think we’ve won and it’s here, the golden age in Utah has happened and it’s far from the truth,” she said. “The legislators and the (LDS) church and opponents who didn’t want cannabis to pass in this state wanted a program that wasn’t going to be easily accessible for patients.”
Even though Arizona passed its marijuana initiative, there was opposition from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who declined to comment to FOX 13 in-person or via a written statement.
According to the LDS General Handbook, section 38.7.8, the church outlines its stance on marijuana use by saying “The church opposes the use of marijuana for non-medical purposes.”
Moving forward, Stenquist believes that enough community members would support recreational marijuana in Utah. Meanwhile, Republican Senator Evan Vickers, who sponsored the 2018 Cannabis Act and the 2020 modifications, believes there wouldn’t be much support in the legislature for recreational marijuana or decriminalization.
“We want to stay with that direction with that medical path with medical professionals working with the patient,” said Senator Vickers. “It’s been a challenge it really has but I think we’ve been able to find a good path.”
In response to the concern about modifications, Senator Vickers acknowledged work being done by fellow Senator Luz Escamilla to work toward keeping medical marijuana provider fees down along with the price of the product.