OPINION — The next time a member of the Utah Legislature starts blathering about how important it is to represent the people and their wishes, tell them to take a hike.
They don’t mean it.
They never did.
The only allegiance they can rightfully claim is to a theocracy that is the most powerful force in state politics and the campaign donors who fill their pockets.
They are liars in this regard, they care more about personal image than the needs, wants and desires of Utah voters.
Unless you want to point guns at federal agents or tear down protections for wilderness or our fragile environment, you will not be heard.
The Legislature now has two medical cannabis laws on the table.
Neither has anything to do with science or reality and everything to do with toeing the line within the grasp of a tightly-fisted hand of power that controls the body.
The people have spoken.
They want medical cannabis.
They have gathered nearly enough signatures to make it a ballot issue in November.
These aren’t wasted stoners lolling about listening to Snoop Dogg, Willie Nelson and The Grateful Dead.
These aren’t slackers without jobs or ambition.
These aren’t long-haired hippies hitting on a vape pen and hoping nobody realizes what’s in it.
These are the voters of Utah, some 76 percent of them – from conservative Republicans to liberal Democrats – who endorse the compassionate use of cannabis for medicinal purposes.
According to a poll by The Salt Lake Tribune and the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics, 64 percent of Utahns who identify themselves as Republicans support the proposed initiative while 94 percent who claim to be Democrats are behind the measure.
This, of course, has the Legislature in a political tizzy as it searches for ways to sabotage the initiative, which, if the numbers hold – and there is no reason to believe they won’t – will pass with numbers usually reserved for an incumbent Republican governor.
That’s why two bills have been filed by Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem.
These bills are undeniable subterfuge, false flags to appease the uninformed, ridiculous efforts to avoid the inevitable legalization of medicinal cannabis.
The first bill, designated HB 195 proposing medical cannabis policy, would only allow terminal patients with six months or less to live “the right to try” medicinal cannabis. It would also limit a doctor to recommending only 15 patients to the program. Limiting usage to terminal patients and only allowing a doctor to prescribe cannabis for 15 patients is disingenuous, but seems, to the bill’s authors, the way to prevent an avenue for faux medicinal use.
This flies in the face of compassion and practical usage. In comparison, the proposed ballot initiative would allow use for those suffering from several serious ailments, including Alzheimer’s, cancer, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain, autism. Of course, smoking cannabis or using it in public would be against the law. Edibles, ointments and oils would provide the only method of delivery.
Daw’s other bill, HB 197, calling for cannabis cultivation amendments to Utah law, would require the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food to cultivate and produce medicinal cannabis for “academic or medical research purposes.” This would occur, of course, through a third-party contractor working in conjunction with the state. The downside concerns range from quality and consistency issues to monopolization of the product. In other words, the free market would be circumvented and the state would reap the bounty.
These are panicky, last-ditch efforts to combat a movement that has strength, has depth, has support, has science and, for what it’s worth, the experience of more than half of the other states in the union to rely on.
“The simple fact is the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) will tell you what we’re trying to do is against the law,” Daw told St. George News.
Ogden Police Chief Randy Watt, spokesman for the Utah Police Chiefs Association, told the Legislature that the group wasn’t in favor of either bill because they were violations of federal law. “We are opposed,” Watt said. “We feel we are duty-bound morally to respect federal law.”
Utah, in case you haven’t noticed, has not been overwhelmingly supportive of federal law since passage of the Edmunds Act, a federal statute signed into law by President Chester Arthur in 1882, that made polygamy a felony. It is an attitude that continues to this day, particularly when environmental or wilderness issues are on the line.
So make no mistake, there is nothing compassionate or scientific in these bills, they do not fulfill the wishes of voters and despite claims to the contrary, Utah legislators couldn’t care less about federal law unless they are seeking funds from a government project office when they rush in with their hands out.
These bills are designed, as a matter of fact, to keep medicinal cannabis out of the hands of those who need it.
Besides being restrictive in severely limiting who would have access to cannabis the bills would, in effect, delay any momentum toward broader legalization of medicinal usage because they also call for “research” that, within the state, could be strung out for years, delayed by theocratic influence.
It doesn’t matter that the antiquated laws against consumption of cannabis are rooted in racism and bigotry that has resulted in the disproportionate arrests of people of color. According to the numbers, you are about four times more likely to be arrested on a marijuana charge if you are black.
It doesn’t matter that legal medicinal cannabis is the will of the people.
And, most frighteningly, it doesn’t matter that Utah has a tragically growing number of opioid overdose deaths, ranking fourth in the nation.
What matters is the fact that our narrow-minded legislators – including many with connections to the medical and pharmaceutical communities, whether through profession or campaign contributions – have the power to make this ill-informed and biased decision.
Representatives from the Utah Patients Coalition are fairly confident that they will soon have the required 113,000 signatures required to place the matter on the November ballot. Then, it will be in the hands of voters and the current legislation, should it pass, will only have meaning to Daw and the dwindling others who have succumbed to the “Reefer Madness” myth perpetuated by people like U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions who believes that “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.”
To Mr. Sessions, Mr. Daw and the others responsible for perpetuating the opioid crisis and continued cultural bias that encourages the unfair imprisonment of minorities: Good people don’t vote for people who lack compassion in their souls and justice in their hearts.
No bad days!
Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist for St. George News. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.
- Read full text of the bills: 2018 HB 195 S2 – Medical Cannabis Policy | 2018 HB 197 S1 – Cannabis Cultivation Amendments | Both bills received favorable recommendation from the House Health and Human Services Committee Jan. 31 and currently sit on the House of Representatives third reading calendar, the final phase, for consideration before passing to the Senate.
- Contact legislators
- Bill sponsors for both bills: House sponsor Brad M. Daw | Senate floor sponsor Evan J. Vickers
- Southern Utah Senators: Evan Vickers, Don Ipson, David Hinkins and Ralph Okerlund| Listing of all senators.
- Southern Utah Representatives: Jon Stanard, Bradley Last, V. Lowry Snow, Walt Brooks, John Westwood, Merrill Nelson and Michael Noel | Listing of all members of the House of Representatives.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.