UT: Advocacy Group Defends Medical Cannabis Use

Photo Credit: Michelle Rivas

When Christine Stenquist went to her father, a former narcotics officer in Florida, for advice on trying medical marijuana to remedy her health symptoms, he approved.

Stenquist and Tom Paskett from Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education, also known as TRUCE, advocated for the pros of legalizing medical marijuana at a Pizza & Politics event Jan. 23 at the Ragan Theater. Stenquist, president and founder of TRUCE, and Paskett, police director of TRUCE, shared their stories in what interested them to advocate for medical cannabis.

When Stenquist was 24 years old, she was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor. After surgery, she slipped into a coma for four days. Upon waking up, she was not able to properly speak, swallow or chew. Stenquist began a life of depending on western medicine and pharmaceutical drugs.

“I’m not going to get cured by this, but I have a quality of life,” said Stenquist.

Within eight months of acquiring a bag of cannabis from a Wendy’s restaurant parking lot, her health improved significantly—to the degree  she was able to drive to Utah’s State Capitol Building to learn how to get a law passed.

“What [cannabis] does for each patient is different,” she said.

Paskett was in law school at the University of Utah when he became interested in cannabis education. He learned that cannabis was a “common denominator” in court cases and learned how prisons were overcrowded with cannabis offenses.

According to 2016 U.S. crime data released by the Department of Justice, more people were arrested for possession of marijuana crimes than for crimes that the FBI classifies as violent.

A local 2017 poll conducted by Dan Jones & Associates found that 75 percent, or 3 out of 4 people, were in favor of supporting the legalization of medical marijuana initiative.

“I have a lot of friends and immediate family that can benefit from cannabis,” Paskett said.

Chief justice of UVUSA, Jaxon Olsen, chose the topic of marijuana legalization because it’s an issue that millennials want to talk about in a “civil setting.”

“It’s an issue that’s facing our country and it’s a very hot topic,” Olsen said. “Marijuana is becoming more common, more mainstream.” About 170 students attended the event, according to Olsen.

Raelynn Pito, a junior and psychology major, attended the event because she wanted to learn how medical marijuana could help people.

“I’ve always wanted to get more insight and thoughts about the benefits [of marijuana] and how the effects help people medically,” said Pito.