Cole Capener, Utah House District 53


Why did you decide to run for public office?

Every January and February I have followed the Utah State Legislature, and felt frustrated, angry, disappointed, or embarrassed because our representatives don't really represent us anymore. Polls show what a large majority of Utahns are concerned about, but our legislature is captive to special interests, and ignores the wishes of the people. I decided to run for the legislature to represent what the people want, and to try to ensure that our kids get a world class education and a healthy and clean environment with good job prospects. 

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

I am an international lawyer by training, but I also have been an adjunct professor, and I run a small non-profit charity helping families with HIV/AIDS in Africa.

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

I'm not an expert in this field, although I follow developments in this area and am certainly concerned with the current opioid problem in Utah and throughout the country. In connection with my work in the HIV/AIDS field, I have lobbied for greater access to anti-retroviral medicines for patients in Africa. 

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

I do support the creation of a limited medical cannabis program, but the legislation must be tailored to prevent what I have observed in California. While living in California in the 1990s, I voted for the "Medical Marijuana Initiative" but later had some remorse as I saw it abused.  Walking along the boardwalk on Venice Beach, I personally experienced touts aggressively approaching everyone walking by, trying to induce them to go to the nearby doctor's office for their Marijuana card. I do not favor legalization of marijuana for general use.

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

I do not have any personal experiences with overdose, but I recognize it as a serious problem in Utah and elsewhere. We need to bolster public education, and provide more state resources to agencies and other organizations trying to address this tragic problem.

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

I agree.

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

I also agree with the principle of harm reduction. Quite frankly, the “War on Drugs” and other attempts to "solve" our drug problem have not been successful. It's time to shift our approach.

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

As noted earlier, I do not favor legalizing marijuana recreationally. However, I would consider reducing the criminal penalties associated with personal use or imposing civil fines rather than criminal. I do not believe our law enforcement resources should be focused on chasing those who possess marijuana for personal use. 

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?

It's not one of my first priorities, but I am certainly open to sponsoring or co-sponsoring appropriate reform legislation.

Anything else?

I know this is a very important issue and, candidly, I need to learn more about it. If elected, I would be supportive of suitable legislation to address this problem.