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Fate of medical marijuana may eventually rest with voters

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(KUTV) After the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spoke out against Senate Bill 73 -- a senate bill advocating for medical marijuana -- rumors started spreading about the bill's demise.

Meanwhile, Utah families dealing with chronic pain issues are not giving up. In fact, they've come up with a backup plan.

SB 73, Sen. Mark Madsen's medical marijuana bill, will likely be debated at the end of this week with an early vote scheduled for Friday. If Madsen's bill dies, a group calling themselves "Truce" is ready to start canvassing the state to get enough signatures to get the issue of medical marijuana on the ballot this fall.

"If legislators won't listen, we will take it to the people."

Kaysville mom Christine Stenquist has battled chronic pain and nausea for 16 years. She turned to medical marijuana in 2013, and had immediate relief.

"We believed in the system and sought legislatively to have our voices heard and we cannot wait for legislators to become comfortable with my medication."

Stenquist now advocates for others seeking relief from chronic pain and she is optimistic others will have the relief she has found -- soon.

"I think we can gather the signatures, I really do."

She hopes it doesn't come to that but says the alternative bill -- SB 89 is useless.

"There is nobody advocating for SB 89 and that should be a tell-tell sign to us all."

Amanda Ellis Graham, 36, has suffered severe multiple sclerosis, or MS, symptoms for half of her life. Two years ago she "chose to start using cannabis" and today, "I can drive again, I'm starting to do things I could not do before."

Graham reluctantly tried marijuana two years ago after a scary conversation with her doctor about her prescribed medications. Her doctor said, "we need to get you off of these because we are scared you will not wake up while you are sleeping."

After being home bound for eight years, and on disability, Graham says cannabis saved her life.

"I am here today. I can drive again. I'm starting to do things I could not do before."

The group is preparing everything they can, just in case a ballot initiative is needed, but say they hope the Legislature will pass a bill instead.

If a December Utah Policy poll is any indication, a ballot initiative would pass with 61 percent of Utahns favoring legalizing medical marijuana, if prescribed by a doctor.

Now all this group needs is time; they already have the money.

Utah County businessman David Kirkham led the news conference announcing the ballot initiative today.

"We have gathered committed businessman with substantial resources to put their funding behind this."

Patrick Byrne of is on board, as well as Xmission, Bruce Bastian of Microsoft, and a billionaire businessman out of California.

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Follow Heidi Hatch on Twitter @tvheidihatch for breaking news, updates and more.

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