The state of Utah is famously conservative, both politically and culturally. In a region of the country dominated by liberalism, Utah’s elected officials are overwhelmingly Republican. The state hasn’t had a Democratic governor in 35 years and hasn’t voted for a Democrat in a presidential election since 1964. Life in the Beehive State is largely dictated by the powerful Mormon church, which has historically vocally opposed marijuana legalization.
So when the state’s voters passed Proposition 2, the Utah Medical Cannabis Act, it wouldn’t have been a surprise to see legislators undermine voter intentions with a painfully slow rollout or outright disregard. Instead, to the surprise of many, Utah legislators and regulators have wasted no time developing a thoughtful, functional medical marijuana system that actually serves its patients.
How did that happen?
Voters led, and leaders followed
It’s been more than two years since Utah voters surprised the nation by passing Proposition 2, the Utah Medical Cannabis Act. Utah became the thirty-third state to legalize medical cannabis, not altogether significant for broader legalization efforts, but a giant step for the Beehive State, which is considered to have one of America’s most conservative populations.
Less than one month later, the Utah Legislature passed HB3001, controversially amending the voter-approved initiative and instituting a March 1, 2020, deadline for the Utah Medical Cannabis Program to issue patient registration cards, register medical providers qualified to approve patients, and license medical cannabis pharmacies.