Utah medical cannabis election victory could help ensure program’s viability

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Voters approved a medical marijuana initiative in Utah, a victory that could put additional pressure on state lawmakers to ensure the modest program is financially viable.

Proponents and opponents recently hashed out a legislative compromise in advance of Tuesday’s election, but some details are still being hammered out.

“On some of these loose ends (of the compromise), it does give us a bit more leeway,” said DJ Schanz, campaign director of the Utah Patients Coalition, which backed the initiative.

The initiative was ahead by a margin of 53.2% to 46.8% with more than 75%t of precincts reporting. CNN and Salt Lake TV station KSTU projected a win for the proponents.

“I think we’re good,” Schanz told Marijuana Business Daily on Wednesday morning.

He believes one of the biggest loose ends involves the qualifying medical conditions for patients to receive MMJ.

Schanz cited “pushback” from those who believe the conditions are too permissive but declined to say which conditions are sticking points.

He said his coalition also would like to see more MMJ dispensaries than the initial five called for in the legislative compromise. However, Schanz declined to say whether Tuesday’s victory could open the door for negotiation. “We’ll have to see,” he said.

“Ideally, we’d like to see 15 to 20 dispensaries in the state,” Schanz said. “I think if we could start out with eight or 10 that would make the program more viable.”

MJBizDaily projects that the Utah program will generate $15 million-$25 million in annual sales within several years of launching.