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Utah's sick and afflicted are hoping for a little charity from their friends and neighbors in the form of safe and legal medical marijuana.

The Utah Patients Coalition announced Monday a citizen initiative to legalize medical marijuana. The initiative is modeled after former Utah Sen. Mark Madsen's failed legislation from 2016, who is one of the initiative sponsors.

Three of Utah's border states have already legalized medical marijuana: Arizona, Colorado and Nevada. Utahns who need relief won't, and shouldn't, hesitate to cross the border.

The proposed law is a cautious, regulated approach. The initiative prohibits smoking marijuana, advertising its use and using it for recreational purposes. Those who use it must obtain a physician's authorization. Qualified illnesses are discrete, including HIV, Alzheimers, cancer, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain and other severe illnesses. Dispensaries would be highly regulated and limited in number.

The proposed law would allow vaping, topicals and edibles. All use would be prohibited in public.

The Legislature punted the issue last session when it passed legislation to study marijuana treatment in certain volunteer patients under controlled circumstances.

With the opioid epidemic ravaging the state, a substitute non-addictive alternative could save lives. And using marijuana for medicinal purposes does not touch on the morality question associated with this illicit drug.

Indeed, it is only illicit because the government made it so.

Voter initiatives are not the best way to legislate policy. Initiatives use money and advertising to enact law that no specific person is accountable for. Legislators confront unnecessary political pressure if the law ends up needing modification. Our Legislature is tasked with creating policy and ensuring its success. But citizens can only wait so long.

It would be good if this initiative spurs the Legislature into legalizing medical marijuana, thereby ensuring its own ability to regulate such use.

We all know someone affected by chronic pain or a life-threatening illness. Many patients don't intend marijuana to save them, but to allow them a better quality of life for the little time they have left. It's hard to argue against that.