Michael Isbell, Utah Attorney General

Why did you decide to run for public office?

I am a proponent of freedom and believe morality itself rests upon this principle. The continued departure of governments from Natural and Constitutional law principles has raised an alarm with me. My message includes a warning that remaining upon a path inimical to freedom will eventually result in tyranny. We are already experiencing many symptoms of a police state and an ominous increase in government intrusion into personal lives. The purpose of my candidacy is to emphasize a return to the libertarian ideals of freedom common among the founders of our nation which underlie the U.S. and Utah Constitutions. 

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

I have been a member of the Utah State Bar for 25 years. Most of my cases have been felony criminal defense, including numerous illegal drug cases. I taught public school for 8 years, including 4 years as Director and Principal operating a Public Charter School in an impoverished, gang-ridden area of California. My experience includes service in the U.S. Army as a Military Policeman during the Viet Nam era, and an Airborne Special Forces Commissioned Officer. I was certified as a nuclear weapons courier with a secret security clearance validated by an FBI background investigation. 

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

I have been involved as a defense counsel with numerous drug criminal cases.

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

Yes, I support a medical cannabis program. It is immoral for the government to deny medications to citizens, which have been shown to have legitimate use to relieve pain and suffering.

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

The "War on Drugs" is one of the worst policy failures in my lifetime. Drug use has not been curtailed in spite of decades of effort in which billions of dollars have been spent and numerous lives lost. The drug cartels are more powerful, wealthy, and violent than they have ever been. This boondoggle policy has also been a significant contributor to the expansion of aggressive government. We should instead consider the legalization of all drugs and pursuit of a more rational, sensible approach to protecting society from the risks associated with them. Because drugs, in many instances, are extremely dangerous and pose risks to society, I propose we initiate a regulatory program designed to mitigate such risks. Drugs currently classified as illegal would remain controlled substances, however, a citizen could legally possess them if registered with the state. Drugs could be manufactured by reputable pharmaceutical companies (at relatively very low cost) and obtained by users through medical consultation and prescription. Purity, quality, and dosages could be controlled, tending to decrease overdoses and other negatives associated with the way drugs are currently being manufactured and sold. A very important societal benefit incident to such a regulatory plan, is the impact upon the drug cartels. I believe they would essentially evaporate in short order, similar to the alcohol cartels after the repeal of prohibition.

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

I absolutely agree. Please refer to my response to question #5.

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

Yes, I am familiar. My experience is limited to arranging treatment programs for clients as part of resolution of the criminal charges against them.

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

I agree with legalization. However, I believe cannabis is a powerful and potentially dangerous drug. Before legalization, the issues of quality, purity, and dosage should be addressed.

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?

The office of Attorney General of the State of Utah is not part of the legislative branch. However, if elected, it is my plan to reduce the expenditures of public money and resources on drug cases which have a record of not providing benefits to society commensurate with those expenditures. With statutorily granted supervisory authority over County Attorneys, I would provide direction in implementing these same policies at the county level.

Anything else?

Some oppose legalization of drugs because they claim it will open the floodgates of use and result in degradation of our society. I do not agree. Dangerous drugs are already so prevalent and available in our society that virtually anyone could obtain and use them. I believe the vast majority of those who do not use these drugs will continue their abstention. Those who are already using drugs are ... well ... already use them. I posit that there will be no increase in use of drugs, or minimal and negligible increase at most. 

The benefits to society pursuing a more reasonable, thoughtful, and practical approach to drug policy are numerous. Drug overdoses will decrease with medical involvement and in the care of the manufacture and distribution of drugs. With dramatically reduced cost of drugs, there will be a reduction of crimes because users are able to afford their drug without committing crimes. As noted preceding, the violence associated with the drug cartels will diminish dramatically as these cartels evaporate from loss of revenue. Society will benefit economically because of fewer imprisonments. People who might have been in prison will not only not be draining public funds to pay for their incarceration, but will be free to work and contribute to the economy. Did I mention taxes? Yes, drugs could be taxed to pay for the regulatory program replacing the failed drug war.