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More than 3 in 4 Utahns support medical marijuana, new poll shows

SALT LAKE CITY — Newly released results from a Utah Policy poll indicate more than three-quarters of Utahns support the idea of legalizing use of medical marijuana in the state.

The poll — conducted by Dan Jones & Associates with 609 registered Utah voters from Feb. 9 to Feb. 16 — indicated that 77 percent of respondents answered that they were in favor when presented with a question about whether they supported "legalizing doctor-prescribed use of non-smoking medical marijuana for certain diseases and pain relief."

That number exceeds the 73 percent of respondents who expressed support when asked the same question in a November poll conducted for Utah Policy by Dan Jones & Associates.

The February poll's margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points. Twenty-one percent answered in the new poll that they oppose legalization, while three percent said they don't know.

The Utah Patients Coalition, a ballot initiative campaign, is seeking to broadly legalize use of medical marijuana for Utahns with certain illnesses and is pushing to get enough petition signatures to get the issue in front of Utah voters in November.

"What we've been able to gather is many people have done their research on the issue and are pretty set on where they're at ... no matter how much opposition (there is)," said DJ Schanz, the campaign's director.

Schanz said about 120,000 signatures have been formally certified by the lieutenant governor's office so far. Only 113,000 total signatures are needed to place a measure on the ballot, but specific signature thresholds must also be met in at least 26 of the state's 29 Senate districts in order to qualify, which Schanz said the Utah Patients Coalition is still working on.

"As of right now we're kind of (tying) some loose ends ... in some of the Senate districts where we need to hit some of the numbers," he said, though he didn't go into further detail about exactly which districts those are or how close those areas are to hitting their benchmarks.

All signatures must be submitted by an April 15 deadline.

The medical marijuana legalization proposed by the ballot initiative is not without pushback in the state.

The Utah Medical Association has criticized it as a de facto recreational marijuana bill. Multiple Republican state legislators, including Rep. Brad Daw of Orem, have said the same thing, contending that the measure would make it very difficult for police to enforce laws on recreational use.

Daw was the sponsor behind bills which passed this year that, among other things, gave terminally ill patients access to certain forms of medical marijuana and instructed the Utah Department of Agriculture to arrange for the growing of full-strength marijuana in the state. But he believes the ballot initiative's allowances go too far.

The new poll found that 66 percent of Latter-day Saints who identify as "very active" are in favor of medical marijuana legalization, compared to 61 percent of that same group being in favor of it in November.

It also showed 79 percent of Catholics were in favor of medical marijuana legalization, as were 81 percent of protestants, 86 percent who said they belonged to other faiths, and 98 percent of those who say they have no religion, Utah Policy reported.

The new poll found that 67 percent of those who identify as Republican support medical marijuana legalization, compared to 84 percent of self-identified political independents and 91 percent of Democrats.