Zach Robinson, Utah House District 49

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Why did you decide to run for public office?

I chose to seek this office is due to my background in public service. I worked in the community as a firefighter/paramedic, and I love serving the public. Running for elected office allows me a different avenue to serve our State, and help all people of Utah.

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

Public Safety – I worked for Sandy city as a firefighter/paramedic for over a decade. I have also worked for the University of Utah's AirMed program as a flight paramedic. Currently, I continue to work in healthcare for University of Utah. 

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

I have first-hand experience working with members of our community who battle with substance abuse. As a paramedic, I have personally had to save people from overdosing by using Naloxone. This is a topic that I believe is extremely important and relevant to Utah. As a legislator, I plan to not only focus on substance abuse, but mental health overall. 

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

I believe in the benefits of whole plant use for medicinal purposes. As a healthcare worker, I see the potential benefits of using cannabis to treat a wide range of medical challenges that Utahans face every day. I believe that opioid addiction is a major problem in Utah, and medicinal cannabis is a way to help combat intentional or unintentional drug addiction. There absolutely is a place for medicinal cannabis in Utah. 

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

As a paramedic, I have responded on many, many overdose deaths in our community. Some we were able to save with Naloxone; others we were not. I have personally witnessed the devastation that this epidemic has on Utah families. Having to tell a father or a mother that their child has passed due to a drug overdose, is one of the hardest things that I have ever done. That said, I want to focus on this issue two-fold: focusing on the mental health aspect of addiction and the access to pain medications. Addressing mental health shortfalls in our communities is something that I want to focus on as a legislator. Simplifying government red tape to mental health resources, strengthening community based and non-profit mental health resources, and analyzing where our shortfalls are as a State with regards to mental health are areas I plan to work. Mental health challenges are gripping Utah, and we as a state need to do something about it. 

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

I agree with Science and evidence-based practices to make public policy better. Medicinal cannabis is a health issue, and not a criminal justice issue. Using cannabis to treat health challenges should not change the criminal justice code in Utah whatsoever. Physicians from many different areas of focus, are beginning to see that their prescribing of opioids to their patients is causing harm. Again, Doctors are seeing problems with the medications they are prescribing to their patients. I interpret that as an issue. Doctors need to be able to have an additional tool in their tool kit to treat their patients, and medicinal cannabis is one of them.  

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

As a legislator, one of my principle values will be to do no harm to Utahans. As a firefighter, I was sworn to protect the community I serve, this is something that I have a deep passion for, and will continue to have as a legislator. Drug addiction is a serious health problem, many Utahans are fighting this battle on many different fronts. As a legislator, I want to be a champion for those that need help with the fight. Using data, utilizing personal experiences, and using proven facts, will be tools for me as a lawmaker; helping me to create the best possible legislation. If we as a State do not take on the drug problem in Utah, many of our friends and neighbors will continue to struggle. I will take on that fight, and fight as hard as I can. 

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

This issue is focused on the criminal justice reform that is needed in Utah. As far as medicinal practices go for cannabis, I fully support that. I would need to see additional research on decriminalization before I would pass any judgement. I think criminal justice reform is needed in Utah, and if the data suggests a decline in recidivism, then I would be open to exploring this issue. If the data does not support it, there is additional areas for rehabilitation that we can explore to keep our law enforcement officers focused on more serious offenses.  

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, absolutely. I would want to focus on the prevention aspect of drug policy reform. If this is an area where we can do something with the students of our schools, then I want to push this. I would try to direct more dollars into the education system, with the caveat of focusing on prevention in our schools. This would help Utah in the long run. As a legislator, I would also want to open more access points in our community by collaborating with the private, and non-profit sectors. Working with healthcare organizations, and collaborating with private and non-profit partners, we can create access points where those addicted to drugs, or those seeking help, can come and get resources. Focusing on the homeless population, and the drug challenges they face, is also something that I see as an important component of drug policy reform. This is an enormous issue that lack a champion in the legislator. I want to be that champion, and I want to help. 

Anything else?

I bring to the legislator a unique perspective of this issue. I have personally worked with those fighting this battle. I will be a champion for drug reform in Utah. This is an issue that I believe spans all socioeconomic borders, all religions, all families. Utah can be a leader with drug policy reform, and we have the opportunity to help so many Utahans who are struggling with addiction, pain, and suffering.  Thank you for the opportunity to answer questions, and I encourage dialogue in this area. Don't forget to VOTE!!!!!