Dave Thomas, State School Board District 4

Why did you decide to run for public office?

I have a passion for public education and preparing our children to compete and succeed in the 21st Century marketplace of ideas and economies.

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

I am a county attorney and have represented local legislative bodies for many years. Prior to becoming a county attorney, I was a Judge Advocate on active duty in the U.S. Army. I believe in providing service to our communities and to the nation. Hence, I have served on my local city council, as a state senator, and on the state school board.

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

I have experience as a criminal prosecutor. In that role, I prosecuted drug crimes. Further, as a Utah state senator, I helped enact legislation concerning drug policy and substance abuse. In my role as a county attorney, I am familiar with drug courts and other criminal diversion programs. 

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

Marijuana by itself is regarded as a relatively minor drug. However, in my experience, it is utilized as a "gateway" drug which leads to more powerful drugs, such as cocaine and meth. I am concerned with the significant increase in states, like Colorado, of drug use as a result of medical marijuana programs. Therefore, I do not favor the legalization.

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

I would work to make Narcan (naloxone) more readily available. It can reverse the effects of an overdose of opium or opioids. This has been used in emergency rooms for years and is now being made available by prescription under the Overdose Prevention Act. 

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

I disagree. While drug use is a public health issue, it is also a criminal law issue. You cannot divorce one from the other. The root cause of many crimes remains drug use. Hence, it must be addressed within the framework of the criminal justice system. As it applies to public schools, the juvenile justice system assists in dealing with drug use by juveniles where a crime is committed. Since juvenile court is not a court of record, it has proved to be an effective method of dealing with youth who have drug dependencies. There are a variety of diversion programs available to the juvenile court and its prosecutors. Further, drug court has had remarkable successes. Lastly, the Utah Justice Reinvestment Act has a real chance of success as long as it is properly funded. 

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

I am not familiar with the principle of harm reduction. I am familiar with drug related programs through the local public health departments. As part of my position as a county attorney, I deal with the health department on a frequent basis.

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

I am not in favor of decriminalizing illegal drug use and distribution.

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?

I am not running for legislative office.

Anything else?

Schools should be "drug free" zones which are safe for children. Teachers have a unique responsibility in our school system to teach and mentor youth. Consequently, teachers convicted of illegal drug use and/or distribution, should have their teaching licenses suspended.