Forum panelists support medical marijuana, but some not in favor of Utah’s Prop 2
The big question at the Project for Deeper Understanding’s panel discussion on Thursday night wasn’t whether the panelists supported medical marijuana. They collectively stated they do. What the group couldn’t agree on, though, is the best method for legalizing it in Utah.
The decision of whether or not to legalize medical marijuana will be put to Utah voters in November through a ballot initiative spearheaded by the Utah Patient’s Coalition. Proposition 2 would make cannabis available to people suffering from a range of debilitating and terminal illnesses through a doctor’s recommendation.
Some of the panelists opposed the language in Prop 2, saying it will be bad for patients and will come at a high cost to the community. Others said having local access could be a matter of life and death for some.
Jessica Reade Gleim, who suffers from chronic pain, said she doesn’t haven’t time to wait for an alternative to Proposition 2 to be presented. Through tears, she said, “I can’t survive.”
“The state of Utah has been working and discussing this for several years, since 2014. It’s 2018,” she said. “I appreciate everyone’s enthusiasm, but I need a life. Today. We have been asking for this for more than four years. I need an answer. I need help.”
Gleim’s comments were part of a broad and passionate panel discussion that touched on various issues related to the controversial Proposition 2, such as costs to the community and side effects. It featured seven panelists who represented various interests pertaining to medical marijuana. Nearly 75 people attended.
State Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem, said Prop 2 is “very problematic and contradictory.” He said there are regulations within it that would not work the way they are intended to.
“I support access to medical cannabis. The governor supports it and both legislative bodies have said the same thing,” he said. “If Prop 2 is approved, there is almost surely going to have to be modifications made to the amendment. What form that takes remains to be seen.”
Nathan Frodsham, a patient’s advocate who is leading a medical cannabis support group, said he no longer had the same access to cannabis that he did in Washington state when he moved to Utah in 2014. He has been advocating for medicinal access, while consulting with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, since about 2016.
Frodsham said he was originally on board with Proposition 2 until he learned the Mormon church was working with various groups to come up with an alternative.
“Prop 2 is great, but they came up with something better,” he said. “Prop 2 needed to happen to get to this point. It’s difficult to sell something that is not public. I understand why the skepticism is there. But, it is in the works and they are doing it very carefully collecting information from patients and law enforcement.”
Marty Stephens, the church’s director of community and government relations, said the church is committed to working with various groups to create legislation that would legalize medical marijuana before the end of the year through a special legislative session. He added, “We are in favor of it. But, what vehicle are we going to use to provide access?”
“If Prop 2 passes it repeals everything currently in the law,” he added. “I understand the skepticism and can’t speak to that. I can only promise you what the LDS Church’s position is. Groups have come together to say we think there is a problem with Prop 2, but we want medical marijuana to help Jessica and others. We are committed this year.”
Dr. Mark Bair, a physician at Mountain View Hospital and licensed pharmacist, said the initiative is worded in a way that would create problems for the state. He said a better alternative can be created by working with state legislators.
“I think we have the opportunity to move forward with something better than Prop 2,” he said.
Dr. Andrew Talbott, a physician who practices in Park City representing Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education (TRUCE) Utah, said Stephens’ and Bair’s comments “ring very hollow.” He questioned why voters should believe promises of another alternative when Prop 2 is on the cusp of being passed.
“What faith should they have?” he said.
Audience member Justin Arriola, a board member of TRUCE and Salt Lake City resident, raised the same concerns during a question-and-answer session following the forum. He asked how the Church and other groups plan to move so quickly when there is such a high learning curve surrounding marijuana.
“You apologize this has taken a long time to get something meaningful in place and yet you are asking us to believe that now you will get it done immediately,” he said. “Based on my experience up at Capitol Hill last year, it seems like there is a significant amount of a lack of education around this issue.”
Doug Rice, caregiver for his 26-year-old epileptic daughter and representative of the Utah Patient’s Coalition, echoed Arriola and Talbott’s comments.
“I’m still in the skeptic frame of mind,” he said. “I’m concerned about why the sudden push to be done before the end of the year. Why is there such a hurry? When we hurry, we end up with more challenges or disasters.”
Aaron Summerill traveled from Orem to attend the discussion. Summerill, who is an amputee, said he wanted to represent the wheelchair community, which “may need it just as bad if not worse than others.”
“I support Prop 2 or really anything that gives me access to plants on this earth, which is a God-given right,” he said.
Blane Goulding, of Salt Lake City, wanted to listen to the discussion because he knows people who are affected by medical marijuana.
“I’m in favor of its legalization,” he said. “I think you can pass the law and fix everything after. There is nothing wrong with getting something on the books. They are going to alter it anyways. Help these people that need help.”
“Even the dogs were celebrating the reemergence of the sun.”