Brian Shiozawa, Utah State Senate District 8

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Why did you decide to run for public office?

I seek reelection to Senate District 08 so that I can continue to make changes that positively help Utah citizens through Health care reform. This includes the Medicaid expansion, which will increase funding and treatment for substance abuse and mentally ill patients. I am also going to push the change in the schedule of marijuana from 1 to 2, to allow research and medical usage. We need to increase primary care providers, and integrate healthcare to include mental health along with physical health treatment. 

What is your background? Profession, skills, etc.?

I am an Emergency Medicine Physician, I am currently on the Board of Trustees at St. Marks Hospital, and I am a past President of the Utah Medical Association. I am also completing my first term as the State Senator for District 08.

What is your general experience with drug policy and substance abuse?

I have worked before and during my term as Senator with patients with drug and substance abuse. I have sponsored numerous bills including bills that make Naloxone available to first responders and family members of opiate users. I have worked with DOPL on substance abuse and prescribing issues. In addition, I sponsored and passed the resolution that will change the DEA classification of marijuana from 1 to 2, and also increase medical research by our academic and research institutions in Utah. I co-sponsored the CBD legislation to allow treatment of children with Seizures, and much more. 

Do you support the creation of a medical cannabis program? Can you expand upon your general feelings about medical cannabis?

Yes, with proper research and clear indications. 

What steps would you take to reduce the number of overdose deaths? Do you have any personal experiences with overdose?

There are a number of ways to decrease OD. One is to prescribe less opiates as providers.  Another is education of the patients and their families. Also, restrict use of opiates by children and teenagers, and enhance the information on the CSD website. 

Do you agree with this analysis? Please feel free to elaborate.

We need more policy that advocates for treatment and rehab rather than incarceration. Our current policy encourages recidivism.

Are you familiar with the principle of harm reduction? Do you have any experience with harm reduction policies? Please feel free to elaborate.

I agree.

What are your general thoughts on the decriminalization of cannabis? Please elaborate.

I do NOT favor usage of cannabis by children, youth or other vulnerable populations. I do NOT favor the use of edible candy like forms of medical marijuana; we are seeing too much OD in Colorado among the pediatric population due to edibles. I am concerned about impairment and how it could affect public safety. Clearly, marijuana use penalties are probably too harsh when compared to other more "serious" crimes like violent crime, etc.

Are you interested in sponsoring drug policy reform legislation if you were elected? What would be some specific areas of focus or interest for you?

Already have. 

Anything else?

This next session will be host to a number of bills that address medical marijuana, abuse and overdose with opiates, prescription restriction for controlled substances, etc. It will be interesting and hopefully, positive in making changes.