UT: Medical Cannabis Initiative Opponents Are Trying To Mislead You

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Medical cannabis initiative opponents are trying to mislead you.

A recent op-ed opposing the proposed medical cannabis ballot initiative (“We need more studies before legalizing whole-plant medicinal marijuana,” April 21) is a great example of how the shrinking minority of opponents resort to fabrications and deceptions in their attempt to encourage you to vote against the November ballot proposal.

The author, Samuel McVey, is a retired judge who claims there is “no need” for alleged “wider-spread distribution of an addictive, dangerous drug.”

But to support his point, McVey finds himself having to argue that the status quo is acceptable. Patients and their physicians may find it odd that a former attorney would make such sweeping medical conclusions about their situations.

For example, McVey says that there is already “FDA-approved synthetic marijuana” (called marinol) and “low-THC cannabidiol for seizures.” And while these treatments are a wonderful aid to a handful of Utahns who have benefited from them, they are completely ineffective for thousands more whose conditions and ailments do not respond to these narrow, specific formats of cannabis.

Thus, we have the ballot initiative — an opportunity to allow many more sick Utahns to find relief without fear of criminal prosecution. And that’s all it is; there are no medical claims, only freedom for patients and physicians to experiment and find something that works. After all, if FDA-approved prescription drugs are causing horrible side effects, addiction and death, who wouldn’t want to consider an alternative that avoids these problems?

Not McVey, apparently. He boldly claims that “parents and family members do not need the initiative” because they can obtain CBD oil “online or at health food stores.” Never mind the fact that these products were only recently legalized, and that many Utahns suffer from conditions that are only alleviated with a mixture of CBD and THC, which remains illegal.

And patients don’t want to risk having their children taken from them, or being thrown in jail, merely because they are trying to be healthy. Yet opponents like McVey are evidently indifferent to their plea, dismissing their desires as being part of some sort of nefarious plot to legalize recreational marijuana—a claim Gov. Herbert himself had the audacity to offer.

As one of the organizers of the ballot initiative, and as somebody who has been intimately involved in this issue for years, I can categorically state that these “slippery slope” claims are false. Recreational marijuana has extremely low support in Utah; our culture is not like Colorado or California. We’re more like the other two dozen states that have legalized cannabis for medical use and stayed there — no slip on the slope.

But there’s another important point to address: abuse. McVey oddly argues that we proponents of legalizing medical cannabis “deceptively imply cannabis abuse is harmless.” Yet we don’t argue this at all. Of course cannabis can be abused! So can firearms, sugar, TV, vehicles, mobile devices and more. But that doesn’t mean that items should be banned because some might abuse them. We shouldn’t threaten peaceful people with the full weight of the criminal justice system merely because other bad actors improperly use the item that can help others.

We don’t ban guns just because criminals use them to harm others.

We don’t ban the internet just because some evil people use it for some really awful things.

Likewise, we shouldn’t ban cannabis just because some people will abuse it. Most of those abusers already use marijuana which is widely available; prohibition hasn’t stopped it from spreading. And yet, thousands of Utahns who want to comply with the law don’t go near it, for fear of the legal consequences.

So the status quo traps them. I consider that immoral and unjust. I find it repulsive that some conservatives argue for limited government and family-friendly law, yet make an about-face when it comes to a medical treatment that doesn’t have the blessing of federal bureaucrats who lack authority, under the Constitution we all claim to care about, to deny patients access without their permission.

Fortunately, this will soon change. There are 77 percent of Utahns who repeatedly affirm in one poll after another that they would support changing the law.

I’ve never used cannabis, but I know many who have. Seeing how it has improved their lives is astounding. These people aren’t criminals — they’re your neighbors.

I’m supporting the Utah Medical Cannabis Act because our government should not impede their agency to pursue health alongside their physician; they should be free to choose.

The law doesn’t let them. But once voters support the November ballot proposal, it will.

And that will be a better, more compassionate Utah we can all be proud of.