On the EDge: Legislative med pot bills: All mirrors and no smoke

Image courtesy Pixabay, St. George News

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.


Read more: Utah voters could decide in 2018 whether to legalize medical marijuana | Also read: Proposed marijuana law would outline patient access, regulate store-bought cannabidiol oil


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.


Read more: Cannabis could be grown in Utah for research, terminally ill patient use under proposed bills


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.”

Yeah, right.

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.

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Read more: See all St. George News stories related to Utah’s 2018 legislative session

Email: edkociela.mx@gmail.com

Twitter: @STGnews, @EdKociela

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40 Comments

  • dogmatic February 6, 2018 at 8:23 am

    Great idea we should legalize medical marijuana as soon as the drug abuse is stopped, until than folks in Utah can go across the border to Colorado are nevada. It’s no big deal a slap on the hand if you are caught with marijuana it in Utah.
    A friend got hit by a car the driver was tested positive for marijuana he claimed he had a medical condition, now they both do.

  • dons8120 February 6, 2018 at 8:28 am

    Until the state of Utah can control the marijuana sales like they control alcohol, they will do what ever they can to keep it from becoming law. Put it to a vote and let the people decide.

    • McMurphy February 6, 2018 at 1:30 pm

      Problem — Our Lords and Masters in SLC can amend legislation enacted by initiative.

  • Anon February 6, 2018 at 8:30 am

    Legit question here: does the drug have to be smoked to be effective? The article mentions other means of administering the drug. Are they as effective? I guess my issue with medical marijuana is that the proponents seem insistent upon it being smoked. While I really don’t care if people want to smoke or not, wouldn’t the smoke from the drug and the resulting 2nd hand smoke cause just as much damage to a lung as normal smoke? And I’m not just talking cigarettes here. Fire fighters deal with smoke inhalation all the time and can have issues. I guess, my main concern is, ok, we help people get relief from one ailment just to condemn them to another like lung cancer or something similar?

    • dons8120 February 6, 2018 at 9:09 am

      There are several ways to get the benefits from it without smoking. Edibles, oils, tinctures, and many others. You can get a version that takes out the getting high factor (THC) and you just enjoy the medicinal benefits. Problem is people only see the Cheech and Chong version when they think of Marijuana.

    • Ed Kociela Ed Kociela February 6, 2018 at 10:10 am

      Very legit question. The answer is that smoking helps control dosage, one of the factors of medicinal use proponents like. There is also research indicating it has the opposite effect on lungs than cigarettes. Go figure, right? https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5072387/

      • bikeandfish February 6, 2018 at 10:56 am

        I thought edibles and tinctures were a much more effective way to control dosage. They list actual milligrams of content.

        The inverse effects on lungs were limited. But adverse effects of smoking marijuana were common:

        “It was observed that cannabis smoke produces large airway epithelial damage, oedema, erythema and increased secretions with goblet cell hyperplasia, loss of ciliated epithelium and squamous metaplasia on biopsy. ”

        “There is clear evidence that marijuana causes similar symptoms to tobacco smoking (chronic bronchitis) and produces similar large airway pathological features”

        I’m not sure the FVC increases can be justified as benefits given the other pathologies.

      • bikeandfish February 6, 2018 at 11:14 am

        I see, people are using dose for two meanings. One for quantity of THC and also then for how much to use. Smoking doesn’t have tested THC levels but is more immediate so its easier to adapt amount consumed. Edibles are tested to mg but takes much longer to metabolize = delay in dosage.

        I better understand the difference. Given medical marijuana is likely temporary in use I can see how folks might consider overlooking long term lung damage in favor of ease of dosing.

        Out of the loop in Utah.

  • John February 6, 2018 at 9:00 am

    It does not matter what the Utah legislature rules. Until the federal laws are changed by the congress and the senate, marijuana will be illegal and the state and local authorities will enforce the federal laws. If they don’t the federal authorities will enforce it for them. Rule of order is “don’t put the cart before your horse”.

    • bikeandfish February 6, 2018 at 10:27 am

      Utah has ignored federal law before. I mean multiple laws created in the last decade have been deemed unconstitutional by state attorneys. The difference is a law allowing medical marijuana use is s compassionate and ethical choice with few downsides.

      • John February 6, 2018 at 11:07 am

        No matter what Utah does, it will still be against the law and those involved can be prosecuted under federal law. The federal law must be changed first. Marijuana is Illegal in all 50 states. Even if cannabis is legal at the state level, it’s still illegal at the federal level. THE LAW IS THE LAW.. Do it right or don’t do it at all !

        • bikeandfish February 6, 2018 at 11:58 am

          Two different things. Decriminalizing it at the state level means the state isn’t responsible for enforcement. It still leaves dispensaries open to federal raids and prosecution but that is the onus of the feds. And the reality is federal enforcement is becoming less viable given citizens are not only educated on medicinal benefits but supportive by and large.

          Flynn and his gang are on the losing side of history. Marijuana status will be changed at the federal level but that will take a while. Until then states will continue to decriminalize the substance within their legal authority.

          • John February 6, 2018 at 12:11 pm

            It is still ILLEGAL. Illegal means crime! Until the federal law is changed it is against the law to possess it. I am not against legalization, just merely reminding you that there is an order in which things must be done, not just because it feels like the right thing to do. Until the federal law is changed I will vote against any effort to ignore federal law Utah proposes.

        • dons8120 February 6, 2018 at 1:35 pm

          It use to be illegal for black men to vote. Alcohol was also illegal also. Women voting, all illegal until we as Americans stood up against the government.
          Fighting for what is right is the American way.

      • John February 6, 2018 at 11:33 am

        Federal laws over ride state laws. Even in a state which has legalized marijuana (Colorado, for example), technically, you can still be arrested and punished for possessing it under federal law.

        • dons8120 February 6, 2018 at 12:19 pm

          You are correct but, The Justice Department said it would allow the states to enact legalization efforts as long as strict regulations ensure that the drug does not get into the hands of minors, that the profit is not going to criminal enterprises, and that marijuana grown in the states does not cross into states where the drug is illegal.

          • John February 6, 2018 at 1:13 pm

            Last time I checked, the Justice Department does not make or change the law.

          • dons8120 February 6, 2018 at 1:28 pm

            No they just enforce it, that is the whole point.

          • McMurphy February 6, 2018 at 3:07 pm

            It was the Obama Justice Dept that said it would not prosecute if the states met certain conditions. AG Sessions has told US Attorneys they can ignore the Obama rule and prosecute if they so desire.

        • bikeandfish February 6, 2018 at 1:44 pm

          Feds can choose to raid and prosecute cannabis dispensaries and even users. But they don’t normally go after patients because they know how horrible the optics would be.

          And the DOJ doesn’t legislate but it has the inherent ability to choose how and when to prosecute. Its a common practice with state and federal prosecutors. The legal name is escaping me but its well established protocol.

  • St Geo February 6, 2018 at 9:17 am

    Something I seldom say is that I am in agreement with Ed on this. Let’s get it on the ballot come November.

  • chris keele February 6, 2018 at 9:26 am

    If we look at the states that have implemented this experiment in social behavior, it would seem that the ( medical aspect) comes first, and then before long we have full blown legalization next. There are so many problems that are associated with this mistake we should be able to see by now what it has done to those states like Colorado, California, Washington, etc .etc. and get an accurate impact study on it’s affect on society,get a real concise, truthful,non partisan, assessment of what it means to our beloved State of Utah, and our individual communities, and Family’s. I like it here in Utah without the harmful outside worldly influences, and if you must have those influences there are lots of places close by to enjoy that lifestyle, time will prove it is not a good idea!

  • Utahguns February 6, 2018 at 9:34 am

    Is it a cold day in hell?
    Might be…but, Ed for once you and I agree.
    As far as this topic goes, Utah lawmakers don’t rightly serve its people and that we can agree on.

    The San Jose Mercury News website has a link called the “Cannifornian”.
    The link covers the News, Culture, Business and Health aspects of the marijuana industry mostly in the Golden State but nationwide as well.
    It’s a pretty good source for information on this topic.

  • Connor February 6, 2018 at 10:43 am

    Evil has curropted the hearts of men. The forces of darkness have swept a spell over the minds of humanity. Good will always win. We the people are waking up and reclaiming our divinity. Marijuana is nature. It’s a creation of God and so are human beings. I stand in the light of truth with our creator and there are hundreds of thousands who stand with me. Evil is slowing losing thier grasp over this planet. God will be the one to cast thier souls to hell after this earthly existence. Marijuana is nature, how does one outlaw nature? It is a problem of conscious awareness. We are all brothers and sissters. We all share this planet. The world will be a much better place when we finally end the failed war on nature and begin to embrace and elevate our being towards healing this planet. I love you

    • tcrider February 6, 2018 at 12:05 pm

      poppy plants are a creation of god that has enriched our pharmaceutical industry.
      Until the feds figure out a way of getting a piece of the action from the pharmaceuticals,
      it will always be illegal in this country, even though it is way safer than opium or alcohol which
      the feds get a piece of.

    • Whatteverrr February 6, 2018 at 8:31 pm

      I want summa what Connors got.

  • mctrialsguy February 6, 2018 at 11:25 am

    Herion, magic mushrooms, peyote, and opium are or come from natural substances as well….so they all should be okay? Smoking is being outlawed but now we want to legalize pot and that is…. a drug and smoking. If you legalize it, they will drive under the influence even more. Also, any liberal such as yourself Ed can come up with statistics because those statistics come from old hippies that do them and tweet the results. Get rid of all drugs before you start legalizing more! Make the punishments more severe. Ed, we now know what you do in your pastime and how you come up with these crazy articles after every weekend….

    • dons8120 February 6, 2018 at 12:24 pm

      You are comparing apples to oranges. Owning a hand gun is legal, but owning a fully automatic machines guns is not in many states. That is a what comparing marijuana to heroin looks like to its supporters. Beer is legal, moonshine is not. Do you see the similarities between the comparisons? Apples to Oranges my friend

      • Real Life February 6, 2018 at 2:12 pm

        Right on don, I agree 100%.

  • bikeandfish February 6, 2018 at 2:18 pm

    Thanks for the essay, Ed. I was not aware of the various legislative activities in relation to the ballot measure. It can be hard to track all of the activity this time of the year.

    I have hope that citizens are seeing the importance of legislation guided by compassion and education. The old guard of anti-marijuana advocates are realizing its benefits. The old reefer madness and War on Drugs rhetoric is losing it grasp on our nation. It long overdue and there is no reason to regulate marijuana as a schedule 1 drug.

  • McMurphy February 6, 2018 at 3:23 pm

    You forget one thing Ed — this is Utah. 76% of us say we support the medical marijuana initiative. If the initiative should pass our legislature will gut it and if we get anything it will be along the lines of what Daw has proposed. So the legislature will ignore what 76% of us say we want but if they are white, male, Republican and Mormon then 94% of the legislators that will give us the finger will be reelected.

  • Desert Pete February 6, 2018 at 6:35 pm

    Gee, you can hear the hate in this opinion. Sad. You’d expect the MJ user to be more mellow…… I came from California to Utah to avoid this kind of thing. I watched Mendocino and Humboldt counties go down the tubes because of cannabis. Then the Sierra foothill counties are dying because of it. Don’t let them fool you. Medical MJ is 90% phony. Just an excuse to get stoned. And when getting stoned is REAL important to you then you have a problem. But the big issue is what comes with it. You are going to see the hangers on commit lots of crime. LOTS. And don’t let them tell you it’s not a gateway drug. Not directly, but once young people decide getting stoned is a good idea they are ripe to believe that opioids are probably fine too. That’s why opioids are becoming a huge problem across the country. And soon Utah’s advantages are gone. Utah will just be another California and that is NOT good as us native Californians can tell you. Lots of you are saying, “Oh that won’t happen here!” Oh yes it will. Rural Californians thought the same thing. They were wrong. Keep it out at all costs. They want to smoke dope? Go to California or Colorado. Watch the deadly car accident rate soar too. They will crash into you none smokers too. Don’t believe me? Check the rates for traffic fatalities since legalization in Colorado.
    You have been warned.

  • Chelsea February 6, 2018 at 10:01 pm

    MEDICAL PURPOSES ONLY PEOPLE.!!!! From someone who has a family member with stage 4 cancer, we have looked at everything possible to extend life and supress this horrible ailment. Finally, we found success in smoking and ingesting CBD, Marijuana and other different variations of the plant. They have since had to relocate just to receive the proper medical treatment including these meyhos because sporadic treatment worked slowly. Now, after 6 months of being relocated and set to a medicinal plan, they are thriving and beating cancer. You people don’t get it. All you look at is the negative from those who have made the wrong choices. I have also seen responsible use control horrible seizures, autism, even sever anxiety, and personality disorders.It is federally illegal to possess narcotics that are not specifically perscribed to you, you’re not supposed to operate heavy machinery while under the influence, but people still use them irresponsibly. You people need to stop being so ignorant and allow yourself to actually see the pros of medicinal uses. Every medication has their good and bad. This has less than others. Do your … homework. Find someone that has been given a second chance at life because of the use of this medication. I would rather take herbal remedies reather than something overly processed, manufactured and diluted with more harmful chemicals anyday. If I’ve done nothing other than take care of MY body and hurt no one in the process or caused problems, even though my neighbor made mistakes doing the same health regimen, does that condem me too? It … shouldn’t!!!!!!!
    Ed. ellipses.

  • commonsense February 7, 2018 at 7:28 am

    You liberals chide about the theocracy but Utah is and will remain the quintessential paradigm for good government. Utah is debt free with a contingency fund whereas most blue states are encumbered by debt, poverty, welfare abuse and crime.
    Let’s ask ourselves why the Federal government has never legalized marijuana. Obama never even proposed it or recommended it. Why?
    The beneficial part of cannabinol has no HTZ which makes one high and stupid. Can we just make that available. The answer is no because many want the escapism of mind altering drugs on the pretense that they have PTS or some screwed u coping mechanism. Impairment can never be condoned.

    • bikeandfish February 7, 2018 at 8:25 am

      I believe its also the THC that helps in medical applications, especially pain management and desire to eat. Have you ever needed a narcotic pain killer for health reasons? They all impair. I mean Dilaudid, ie hydromorphone, is the most effective and immediate pain killer I ever needed and I’ve never been more impaired. Are you suggesting we no longer provide narcotic pain killers to patients?

      Medical marijuana provides many of the same benefits as narcotic pain killers without the side effects. Its not addictive. It doesn’t come with the high risk of respiratory distress and death. And it has added benefits like restored hunger which can be life saving in certain medical scenarios, like cancer, etc. And if it helps those with PTSD than whats the problem? If patients can find ways to overcome maladaptive patterns overtime with the help of a low grade drug like marijuana all the better as PTSD wrecks lives and families.
      I suggest those so antagonistic to medical marijuana read material from non-partisan research facilities.

  • chris keele February 7, 2018 at 11:20 am

    On one hand I would like to agree that it would be a blessing for those people in need of using cannabis to treat chronic pain, I fear like anything else the ( control part of it ) is so hard to manage that we could really be opening our society up for some unwanted repercussion’s. The potency of today’s cannabis is incredible, look in today’s news ( 7 Feb.) at the young man from Racine Wisconsin that got high and tried to kill his Mom, he stabbed her several times, it is a very psychoactive stimulant, to some more than others, an analogy that is relevant in my opinion is, just like the ” super cars” that are available to us for purchase today, do we really need a car that can go 200 miles an hour, or 0 to 60 in 3 seconds, or is it kinda ridiculous and self destructive?

  • commonsense February 7, 2018 at 11:22 am

    Marijuana is not a great pain killer and it depletes dopamine like narcotics so it’s impairing and addicting. To allow free use of a substance that will impair drivers and dumb down our children seems irresponsible. If you want marijuana to be added to the list of class IV drugs like narcotics, I’m okay with it but selling pot in grocery stores, no.

    • bikeandfish February 7, 2018 at 12:17 pm

      Its “addictive” properties are considered psychological, not as physical, and only affect about 9% of users. For comparison, alcohol is on average addictive for about 16% of users. Its definitely not considered as addictive as narcotics.

      Medical marijuana is not available “in grocery stores”. Even states that have fully decriminalized it for recreational use have shown no increase in underage use. In fact, both illegal underage abuse and traffic accidents related to marijuana decreased in Colorado over the last three years. There is evidence, though no studied findings of causation, that prohibition of such substances is actually related to higher levels of both.

      A Harvard meta-analysis concluded the opposite of your claims and states :””Use of marijuana for chronic pain, neuropathic pain, and spasticity due to multiple sclerosis is supported by high quality evidence.” Findings about nociceptive, ie inflammation and tissue damage, pain are less conclusive. But the concept that marijuana is “not a great pain killer” is patently false from empirical studies and anecdotes from patients supporting these bills. Also, they have found use of medical marijuana can substantially reduce opoid usage, which is something we should all agree is a needed outcome right now.

      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26103031

  • 12345 February 8, 2018 at 12:16 am

    anybody know where I can get a good used lawnmower ?

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