Prop 2 advocates to host panel discussion in Park City amid lawsuit against governor
When Christine Stenquist began illegally using marijuana to help combat the painful side effects of her brain tumor more than five years ago, it was as a last resort. But, she discovered it provided her some relief for her chronic pain.
As her condition improved, she became a patient advocate for people like herself: those suffering from chronic and debilitating illnesses. She eventually founded TRUCE (Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education) and most recently led the charge to legalize medical marijuana in Utah through Proposition 2.
Voters passed the ballot initiative in November. But, shortly after the state Legislature approved an alternative measure known as Utah’s Medical Cannabis Act, H.B. 3001. The law gives the state more control over the medical marijuana industry and requires the Utah Department of Health to oversee the dispensing of marijuana to qualified patients.
Lawmakers and supporters of the legislation have argued that it includes more safeguards than Proposition 2 to prevent recreational use and other unintended consequences. It also requires more oversight and involvement from physicians.
Stenquist is vehemently opposed to the alternative measure, which some have touted as a compromise between supporters and opponents of Proposition 2, and has signed on to a lawsuit on behalf of TRUCE that challenges the legislation. The Epilepsy Association of Utah is also named as a plaintiff.
Stenquist is scheduled to be in Park City on Tuesday, Jan. 8, at 6:30 p.m. to help host a panel discussion about Proposition 2, the Medical Cannabis Act and the details surrounding the lawsuit. The event, to be held in the Jim Santy Auditorium, will also be livestreamed on Facebook and other social media platforms.
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, Park City physician Dr. Andrew Talbott, and Rocky Anderson, an attorney and former mayor of Salt Lake City, will join Stenquist on the panel. Former state Sen. Stephen Urquhart will moderate the event. A similar event was held last month in Salt Lake City.
The lawsuit, filed in the 3rd District Court of Salt Lake County on Dec. 5, names Gov. Gary Herbert and Joseph Miner, executive director of the Utah Department of Health, as defendants. Anderson filed the suit on behalf of TRUCE and the Epilepsy Association. It challenges the state’s alternative to Proposition 2 and calls for the reinstatement of the ballot initiative voters passed.
“The Legislature has screwed the patients so bad and this is why TRUCE didn’t join in on that stupid, ridiculous political theater,” she said. “It was all B.S. But, people are starting to understand what they are doing by having this central fill and the state running it like the DABC (Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control). They are becoming drug dealers and they have effectively killed this effort.”
The Utah Department of Health would be responsible for licensing medical cannabis pharmacies. Individual health departments would be responsible for distributing the marijuana to patients in their communities.
Parkite Jeff Stern, a self-described independent activist, encouraged Stenquist to host the event in Park City. He said he is a strong supporter of Proposition 2.
“In the beginning my interest stemmed from curiosity and I was more supportive of recreational marijuana,” he said. “But, now I have become very involved in understanding the medical benefits of marijuana use.”
Stenquist said the event is intended to help raise the public’s awareness about the Medical Cannabis Act. She added, “People need to understand we need to get to work on fixing it.”
“We are hoping that we can start the dialogue and go through where the problems are with H.B. 3001 and what we are bumping up against,” Stenquist said. “There is a lot of uncertainty because of the way the law is written. It is very confusing and we are bumping up against some federal regulations and that is very problematic, which is why we have the lawsuit. We tried to caution Rep. (Greg) Hughes. But, they didn’t want to hear our pleas.”
One of the issues Stenquist has with the Legislature’s measure is that it requires doctors to make dosage and duration recommendations. Proposition 2 was written in a way that would only have required physicians to issue an affirmative defense letter that ensured the patient was on the list of qualifying conditions to access medical marijuana, she said. She said it was specifically worded in a fashion that would have given physicians time to become more comfortable in recommending marijuana to patients.
“What happened with H.B. 3001 is they tightened that up to the point where it is a chokehold,” she said. “The replacement bill is making it so restrictive that doctors aren’t comfortable recommending it within the scope the Legislature is forcing them to. Prop 2 left it loose so doctors were engaging. But, it was a free-flowing conversation.”
Stenquist encouraged anyone who is interested in the issue to attend the event. Summit County voters approved Proposition 2 by the largest margin of any county in the state, with 15,285 ballots cast in favor of the measure to 4,803 against it, a point Stenquist emphasized. She added, “I know Park City is a huge supporter of this issue.”
“I think patients who are accessing this for themselves, caregivers, social workers and anyone who this effects should get a better understanding of what they are bumping up against,” she said. “Our first responders and any sitting elected officials should also attend if they want to better understand this issue.”
Meredith Reed was elected to a two-year term as chair of the Summit County Democratic Party and said she sees an opportunity to ride the so-called blue wave that saw a Democratic surge nationally and within the state.