Kathie Darby, Utah House District 9


Why did you decide to run for public office?

My experience through with many years in management and volunteering, I feel this is a natural progression of my commitment to the West Haven/Ogden/Roy community. I, like so many Utahns that I speak with daily, have become incredibly frustrated with the level of political discourse in this country, and the stagnation and combativeness I see when I turn on cable news. Like many of you, I have spent a lot of hours thinking about and feeling this frustration: why can’t we get things done and why does compromise and courtesy seem to be dead in politics? I put the pieces together with my own experiences volunteering in our local community, and decided that the best way to change the political climate would be to stop talking about the frustrations I see on a national and international level, turn off the TV, and focus on what I can do locally. Right here, in our very own community, where if we look each other in the eye and work together as neighbors to achieve goals, I think we can achieve a lot.

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

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

I don't have a lot of experience with the policy, I have researched and seen personally how drug policy affects people, businesses, courts, communities, and many aspects of medical health and well-being. I have visited substance abuse clinics, hospitals, and centers and I have many family and friends who are affected in many ways by this important issue.

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

Yes, I fully support the development of a medical cannabis program in Utah. People with legitimate medical needs should have access to the drugs they feel can help them, especially when there is absolutely no evidence that cannabis is anywhere near as addictive as legal opiates, which are an ever increasing and devastating problem in Utah. I know many veterans and older people who suffer nerve pain from injuries of life. Seizure problems, many nervous system disorders, and PTSD may all be relieved by the use of cannabis. More work needs to be done to assure the right amount and type is used for the particular health problem, but we really must move forward in our search for helping Utahns with their health needs in any way possible.

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

I have six friends and one relative who have lost their children to overdose/addiction issues.  It is devastating and such a waste of beautiful young people. This is what I think is needed:
1. We need to reduce, at every turn, the unnecessary prescription of these drugs in the first place. Thirty percent of all Utahns are being prescribed these highly addictive drugs for pain every year. That wasn’t the case 20 years ago. We need to figure out why these prescriptions are being written at such high rates. It seems unlikely that the incidence of pain has increased that much in 20 years. Something else must be going on. 

2. Accordingly, we need to look to alternative forms of pain management – we need to study and understand the viable alternatives to using opiates to manage pain. We may have unwittingly created a situation in this state where drugs that are less damaging and lethal (like alcohol and cannabis) have more stigma than a drug that is far more lethal, yet legally accessible, and culturally approved by a doctor as a prescription. If scientific data backs up the anecdotal remarks I’ve heard from many voters, then medical cannabis may be an option not only to reduce pain, but it may even help with recovery from said opiate addictions. There is recent promising research on this issue and it bears following up.

3.We need to create safe spaces for those suffering from opiate addiction where they can access treatment without fear of stigma or arrest, where they have access to knowledgeable support, clean needles, and an understanding community. Additionally, those arrested for opiate-related offenses need our support and effective medical treatment, not our disdain and punishment.

4.We need to focus on effective, evidence-based treatments. I have been visiting local addiction treatment clinics as part of my research on this issue. Some appear to be doing a good job, but, our current approach is clearly not working. We need to survey the country, and even the world, to identify the most effective treatment models, and our legislature needs to appropriate the money to help our existing or new clinics implement the most proven effective treatment programs.

5.Naloxone is a drug that can save the life of a person in the midst of an opiate overdose. We need to make sure that every police officer, firefighter, and paramedic is equipped with Naloxone, and trained with how to use it to save a life. We also need to make sure that families who are suffering with this addiction have Naloxone at home, and that they can get it without fear of stigma. Naloxone saves lives. 

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

I fully agree, you have stated it exactly. My husband and I voluntarily review Judges for the State of Utah Judicial Process Evaluation Commission. We travel all over the State to do this and see what happens in the courts each week. We have done this for 18 months and I agree that change must come in exactly the way you have worded this; our current system is not working like it should to correct the problems we see.

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

I have no personal experience with this theory but agree that it would be a very good way to address this highly problematic issue. We must start somewhere with scientific and health based facts to work together on this problem. As I stated above in my five-part summary, we can do so much more than we are currently doing in society to help people, and resolve some of the problems associated with addiction.

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

I agree we must move towards this in Utah. In the courts I see SO many variables of how these crimes are sentenced. A comprehensive plan, developed using the laws enacted by these other 20 states, would be very effective in working through the variables we have with our justice system here in Utah. I think a lot of people who go in for a minor offense, which alters their lives, would be served by assuring the behavior is corrected without destroying their lives; which then often leads to worse crimes and more mental and physical health problems.

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?

Yes, I would be interested. Medical cannabis already has legislation written, it could use some further development and support. I would also want to find out why so many opiates are prescribed and perhaps write or adjust laws to prohibit over prescribing and standards for prescriptions. Sentencing laws for drug charges need a full review and update. Half way house management and operation would need a review as well; how they operate, who they house, how they are funded, and where they are situated.

Anything else?

I think my answers above have spoken for me; my heart is in this issue for many reasons. If I am elected it will be a very important priority for me to make positive change in our Utah drug policies based on science and statistics while considering my constituents and their needs.