Perspectives: Reconsidering medical marijuana laws

OPINION – They certainly don’t fit the pro-marijuana stereotype. They’re not tie-dye wearing, Frisbee throwing, long-haired potheads by any stretch. But a growing number of Utah residents dealing with cancer are putting a new face on the debate over medical marijuana.

Brian Scott graduated from Hurricane High School last year. He made his mark as a renowned wrestler, discus thrower, and football player. Brian had a full-ride scholarship to play football at Southern Utah University after he completed a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Uruguay.

But Brian was diagnosed with an acute form of leukemia and has had to endure many rounds of chemotherapy, blood transfusions, and hospital stays. His mother Jane has chronicled his ordeal in a blog.

In researching the various treatments for his type of cancer, Brian Scott and his family discovered that cannabis oil was working well for others. Jane Scott said:

The doctor who we met with that advises people with this has an MD  and Phd from Stanford University, and has degrees from other universities as well. She worked in pharmaceuticals for 4 years, then quit because she didn’t feel it was right…now dedicated to what she believes will heal people.  She explained the science to us, which we already were familiar with, but about the two main chemicals in the oil, THC and CBD. Both kill the cancer.

Unfortunately, Utah’s laws make absolutely zero allowance for the use of medical marijuana. Ultimately, Brian had to move to Colorado in order to receive the treatment he needed.

Their story is similar to that of the family of Stockton May who suffers from Dravet Syndrome. Stockton May suffers from severe epilepsy that caused him to have roughly 300 seizures per week. Stockton May’s mother Jennifer May saw the news video of another child suffering from Dravet Syndrome who was being successfully treated with medical marijuana.

Like many Utah residents, Jennifer May was skeptical about what she considered an excuse for pot users to abuse the system in the name of medicine. But that was before she did her homework.

In an interview with Libertas Institute, Jennifer said:

“Now I feel like we may have really been mistaken; this plant may actually be a very good source of medication. It’s really frustrating that so many could benefit from the proper use and form of medical cannabis, but in most places they can’t have access to it without breaking the law.”

These stories help illustrate how the “Reefer Madness” mindset is preventing good, honest people from getting the help their children need. Far from gaming the system for the sake of getting high, there appears to be real value to the treatments sought by these families. So why does the state, and a large majority of Utah residents, fight so tenaciously to deny them access to legal cannabis?

It comes down to a mindset that any marijuana use whatsoever is simply the gateway to a lifetime of drug abuse and addiction. Worse still, it is part of a desire to control others who may utilize things with which we do not agree.

This rigid, inflexible thinking is entirely devoid of empathy. It chalks up the suffering and denial of the freewill of others as necessary costs to maintain an orderly society. In so doing, it lumps cancer-stricken individuals in with hardcore substance abusers as if they were one and the same.

It also perverts the proper role of government by perpetuating the idea that anything not under the direct control of the state is, by definition, out of control. That type of thinking is what allows the state to criminalize a plant that may provide needed benefit by dismissing medical uses as phony excuses for getting high.

The two mothers quoted above are not advocating irresponsible behavior. They are trying to get their children the help they need to treat life-threatening illnesses. Those who maintain that these parents are simply gaming the system to promote drug abuse need to take a good long look in the mirror.

Behind the noble platitudes there is an underlying desire to control the lives of others. And it has some very undesirable side effects. The war on drugs has become a form of welfare for certain aspects of law enforcement. It unnecessarily empowers criminal cartels that benefit greatly from the artificially high profits.

As undesirable as substance abuse may be, oppressive and unreasonable government is even worse since it affects everyone — not just those who make irresponsible choices.


Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives talk show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.


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  • sam September 2, 2013 at 9:15 am

    Excellent article, so many lives have been ruined by lies and so called religious morals put into place by mislead public figures in the name of profit. The harm that has been done to people and their families for simply having a flower in their pocket that is safer than peanuts is inexcusable! Cannabis has a history dating further back then almost all organized religions and has a safer track record than almost any other substance on earth! Its time to legalize Cannabis completely if we want better control over this plant, legalizing would not only free up millions of dollars wasted on law enforcement that could be funneled back into the schools but also make it harder for children to obtain! The lies are unraveling faster and faster every day, notice they so called moral crusaders lose all their arguing points once logic and real science come to light.

    • This says it all November 22, 2013 at 11:42 pm

      And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.
      And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

      • This says it all November 22, 2013 at 11:50 pm

        The police make their money off asset forfeiture, “suspicious” amounts of cash when it’s perfectly legal to carry any amount of cash. They’ll keep it until you can prove it was legally made. To many politicians and pigs trying to control other people and “rob” them.
        … THEIR “IMMORAL” law
        Ed. ellipsis

  • LD September 2, 2013 at 9:24 am

    It’s entirely true to try and help people with the medical use of marijuana.
    For instance, chrons disease is a horrible disease were there is essentially no lining of comfort through your esophagus and digestive system. Watching my family member go through so much pain, to the point where he nearly died on three separate occasions. He turned to medicinal marijuana for pain relief, and to help him eat, instead of starving to death cause it hurt so bad.
    If this “drug” wasnt so fret upon. I could have watched my cousin not grow up in a life of secresey, instead I feel like because he had to keep it from everyone, it only made him fight back twice as hard to stay away from everyone who didn’t understand. I love my family, and if something like this could help. Everyone should open their minds to realizing that we don’t live in an un changing world.

  • Ed Kociela September 2, 2013 at 9:40 am

    Very good piece, Bryan. Let’s not forget that hemp, marijuana, and the incredible hemp oils–that were intended to fuel the earliest motor cars–were outlawed after a propaganda campaign by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. The propaganda war was based on two things: racism and greed. Hearst was a notorious racist, who hated people of color–whether Asian, African, Mexican–and was a carpetbagger in the Chihuahua region of Mexico where he held vast timberlands to produce paper.

    His end product was very low quality when compared with the hemp products manufactured during the time. He combined his anger at the hemp industry–they made clothing, paper products, even sails (canvas is a derivative of the word cannabis) and hemp oil, a biofuel. The leaves were smoked for recreational and medicinal purposes and turned into oils, which were the basis for a number of early medicinal patents. Hearst set out to destroy Pancho Villa, who was a cursed enemy after Villa and his men raided the Hearst ranch in Mexico and threw out the carpetbaggers, returning the land to the locals in the process. He pushed the ‘Reefer Madness’ propaganda of the day to have marijuana outlawed, creating generations of ignorance about a harmless drug. The heightened marijuana paranoia came to fruition again when it was discovered that a lot of the black jazz musicians–from Louis Armstrong on through the ranks–smoked weed. Again, the racial influences came into play. By the time the ’60s came about and the young people discovered the herb, there was a cultural backlash that was, again, not based on science or evidence, but judgmental egoists who just didn’t understand what was going on and why.

    Enter the Y2K Era and some sensibilities about an herb that has incredible healing and calming properties.

    The argument, of course, is that it is a gateway drug.

    nonsense! That’s like saying kissing leads to pregnancy. Look around you, Utah, at the outlandish, disproportionate abuse of prescription drugs by our adults and children–drugs that are far more dangerous and potent than marijuana, which many ill people prefer because they can control the dosage instead of being soaked into a stupor by heavy dosses of pain meds, anti-inflammatory drugs, psychotropic chemicals (there’s a reason why Xanax is called Sandy Candy.)

    But, the culture here will simply not recognize it for a variety of socio-economic, cultural, and religious reasons that do not hold up to vigoroous inspection.

    Will people misuse medicinal marijuana? Of course, just as they misuse Xanax, Lortab, and other drugs. But, will they be permanently damaged/harmed, addicted by its use? No, not according to best science.

    Addiction comes in many ways, from pills to booze to porn to chocolate. Marijuana? Slight psychological dependence. Overdoses? Never happened.

    Personally I cannot imagine why anybody would want to light up a joint in the state of Utah, not with all the paranoia that would accompany it ranging from the ridiculous idea that Mexican drug cartels and druglords are responsible for growing pot in our local federal lands to the cops, who take every opportunity to bust kids with a joint or two because it makes the records look like they are active in the war on drugs.

    Good piece, Bryan.

    • Chris September 2, 2013 at 11:11 am

      Thanks for the additional information, Ed. I am particularly aggravated by the hypocrisy of many of those who oppose legalized marijuana. The very same people who support substance prohibitions are usually the first to decry motorcycle helmet laws and similar “nanny state” restrictions.

  • melinda September 2, 2013 at 9:42 am

    The federal government has no tolerence. I am for the medical use for seizures and cancer, ive done.research. however, depression? No anxiety? No. Those are too easy to fake and get cannabis when its not really needed.
    I do think the nation as a whole has to step back and really look at this, it is not just utah that is “close minded” about it.

    • Duncan20903 September 2, 2013 at 2:41 pm

      What in the world makes you think anyone needs to fake it to get medicinal cannabis to get high?

      It really is mind boggling that people think there’s any shortage of cannabis. While you might have a case if the prohibition laws weren’t such an utter failure in reality people that just want to get high would have their head stash in hand by noon if the entire concept of medicinal cannabis were to disappear from the face of the planet at 9 AM.

      Quit fooling yourself with the nonsense idea that the absolute prohibition of cannabis is anything except an utter failure. Also please disabuse yourself of the notion that ignorant lay people like yourself should have any say in what is, and what is not medicine. It’s none of your business melinda.

  • mark boggs September 2, 2013 at 10:02 am

    I’m not sure why you even draw the distinction between medicinal use and getting high. The very fact that we have alcohol available ought to be the best argument for why our prohibitions against marijuana are stupid.
    Never mind the fact that gauging something’s utility by whether someone might act irresponsibly with it is the surest way to criminalize nearly everything.
    Finally, for all those folks insisting on smaller government, one of the quickest ways to save some money is to decriminalize the use, sale, and growth of marijuana. No more need for SWAT teams to go breaking down doors (of the wrong residences often) shooting innocent dogs and terrorizing people over the use of marijuana. No more need to subsidize the jail stays of all these pot growers, sellers, users, etc.

    • Bryan Hyde September 2, 2013 at 11:03 am

      I’m in complete agreement with you on this, Mark. However, I’ve also lived in Utah long enough to recognize that too many people can’t stop focusing on the fact that marijuana is used for recreational purposes to consider that it may have other purposes too.
      You are correct to compare it to alcohol. I cannot see any degree of moral difference between a person responsibly using alcohol and a person responsibly using marijuana.
      Prohibition benefits only the two vested interests; the state and the illegal suppliers. Everyone else pays a high price in tax dollars and freedom.

  • Mike Parent September 2, 2013 at 10:22 am

    Blame the US Govt intentionally mislead the people by systemically lying and surpressing reseach. Here’s proof:
    “A Medical College of Virginia team has discovered. The researchers found that THC slowed the growth of lung cancers, breast cancers, and a virus-induced leukemia in laboratory mice, and prolonged their lives by as much as 36 percent.”

    Drug Enforcement Agency officials shut down the Virginia study and all further cannabis research, according to Jack Herer, who reports on these events in his book, The Emperor Wears No Clothes. “

  • Maggie September 2, 2013 at 11:52 am

    I am for the legal , regulated use of marijuana. I am not for adding yet another legal mind altering drug to our culture for daily use,or taking a chance of it being easier for our children to obtain, research does show marijuana has a negative effect on the brains of developing young people.
    I believe more research needs to be done as to what medical conditions marijuana is helpful for , it is indeed helpful for some.

    Having been involved with trying to rescue people from the effects of drugs and alcohol I can tell you it is devastating to everyone involved. I see no benefit cost wise or any other which way to society to legalize yet another substance that is dumbing and harmful to any part of our society.
    There is nothing worse that to see a young adult high on any drug or a past forty yo with long, flowing ,thinning hair who has indulged for far to long and is incapable of an intelligent conversation. Yes indeed they are very many times mellow and funny, but not dependable or clear thinking which indeed limits their ability to reach their full potential in life, and yet they do indeed think they are fine, any problems they have are caused by others. Know anyone like that? Want more people like that? Just start legalizing more mind altering substances.

    • Duncan20903 September 2, 2013 at 2:52 pm

      Also beyond mind boggling are people that think that re-legalization would “add yet another legal mind altering drug to our culture for daily use…” Maggie, I’ve got a news flash for you, our country has had cannabis easily available for centuries. Just because you can’t see something doesn’t mean that it isn’t there. But it might help you to see reality more clearly if you would just take your hands down from in front of your eyes.

  • Jason September 2, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    If it is to be available as a drug it should be distributed as such through pharmacies. It has cost cities in CA millions to fight to get pot shops that bring riffraff to the areas around them. Distribute it in pill form and it takes the glamour out of it. That being said it is a waste of money to fight it as it is no worse than tobacco or alcohol. Make it legal then you can tax the hell out of it and then the 47% can start paying their share of taxes.

  • Matthew Sevald September 2, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    Excellent article.
    I used to drink quite a bit recreationally and even smoked tobacco to relieve stress. I’ve never used illegal drugs or abused medications, but I would certainly be in favor of marijuana to be legalized and governed for responsible use. I have a good Mormon friend whose wife suffers from terrible migraines after a car accident. Not that it matters, but for perspective in this Utah community, they’re both Temple worthy and all that jazz; excellent people who’d give the shirt off their back to people in need. After many different therapies and navigating the red tape of the insurance world, they went to Mexico to test the effects of medical marijuana on her pain. It worked wonders, much to their and my joy. Unfortunately, they had to return to Utah and could no longer legally obtain that medication. She has since undergone another invasive and non-permanent procedure to relieve her pain, but only after great rigmarole and emotional and financial hardship.
    Will people abuse the substance? Absolutely, without question. But it is actually less dangerous than abusing prescription, poisonous narcotics, alcohol, or greasy fat-filled fast food. Never was there a person high on marijuana that went out and robbed a bank, murdered a family, or ran naked in the streets forcing a police standoff.
    It is not government’s place to legislate morality, rather, it is government’s job to protect the people from other people, not themselves. Sometimes it so happens that laws protecting us from others coincide with moral values, but enforcement upon others of personal interpretations of morality should never be the case in a truly free society. Reason must be our greatest sovereign, backed by science and common sense. Marijuana does nothing to harm others, and would only directly harm one’s self if abused. If secondary or indirect harm results, it would most likely be in the form of child neglect or possibly intoxicated driving – both of which we already have laws for. For every one case of child neglect or intoxicated driving, there are scores of millions of cases of responsible marijuana use.
    But, if we legalized it, then the government would lose control and the pharmaceutical companies would lose out on billions of dollars – until they monopolized the marijuana industry, that is. We must not be afraid of things that are different simply because they’re different. Marijuana has many uses and can be used responsibly.

  • Karen September 2, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    Everyone has probably heard this news but the details were just released on August 29th (so much for railing against the federal government on this issue.) The Justice Department will not attempt to challenge state laws that allow for the medical and recreational use of marijuana as long as the drug sales do not conflict with eight new federal enforcement priorities.

    Those include the distribution of marijuana to minors and sales that assist or act as cover for trafficking operations, according to a directive being issued Thursday to federal prosecutors across the country.

    Although the directive issued by Attorney General Eric Holder will apply nationwide, it will largely affect the 20 states and the District of Columbia that allow for medical marijuana use, and Colorado and Washington where state laws allow medical and recreational use by adults.

    Now if we can just get the Utah Legislature (who always knows what is best for us) to allow medical use…..Somehow I doubt it….

    • My Evil Twin September 2, 2013 at 4:19 pm

      So today the justice department won’t “challenge” state laws regarding MJ. That is TODAY, and under Mr. HOLDER. But there is nothing, absolutely NOTHING that says this will not change tomorrow.
      Not that any of us living in Utah will ever have to worry about the Feds over this subject. Because it is guaranteed that the small minds in our state legislature, will never, under any circumstances allow the legalization of MJ in any form, or for any reason what so ever.

  • DM September 2, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    We, the people, can debate this issue until the cows come home; however, until we, the people, start taking an active roll in the political process and taking or letter writing to our representatives, nothing will change. If you feel strongly about the legalization of marijuana, write your representative and tell them you want a bill introduced to the state legislation. Then we, the people, will have the opportunity to make the decision with our vote.

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