Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have enacted effective medical cannabis laws. These laws, where they have been fully implemented, are working well and protecting people with severe illnesses and symptoms. An overwhelming majority of Utahns and many prominent religious and medical organizations support seriously ill patients’ right to use medical cannabis without risking arrest and imprisonment.
What we are proposing is to establish a comprehensive medical cannabis program here in the State of Utah. This program would allow doctors and patients to explore additional treatment options for specific symptoms associated with chronic illness or disease. Such a program would include heavily-regulated facilities to cultivate, produce, and dispense medical cannabis for those with a recommendation from their physician. We have established ten key values that guide our decision-making about a medical cannabis program. To learn more about the status of medical cannabis research visit our cannabis medical research center.
Our 10 Values for Medical Cannabis Legislation in Utah.
1) Whole Plant Access
Without whole plant access, patients with unique needs and circumstances will be left out and unable to access the relief they need. Various forms of ingestion are well documented to lead to different treatment options, oil and extract-only legislation would leave out many patients.
2) Program Affordability
Many other states have created programs that are simply not affordable meaning that patients are priced out of legitimate markets.
3) Fair Program Eligibility
Without a proper mechanism for program qualification, those with rare conditions risk being left out.
4) Reasonable Geographic Access
Without providing for adequate geographic access, patients in rural areas risk losing the ability to access the program safely.
5) State-Issued Patient Identification
Without a proper, government-issued form of identification, law enforcement will be unable to discern between program participants and those who are not participants.
6) Protection of Civil rights and Liberties
Over-reaching tracking or database style tracking of patients leaves private, vital information at risk of breach and violation. Patients with children should be protected from legal action as long as they adhere to the spirit of the law and obey the standards of the program.
7) No Medication Tax
Utahns have long understood that it is inappropriate to tax medication. Since medical cannabis will be recommended by a physician, it should be treated like all other medications.
8) A Safe Pathway to Access
Access to the program should be determined by a patient and their physician. Ensuring that youth remain protected from exposure to cannabis unless they are a program participant should be a priority of any program.
9) Quality and Safety Controls
Safety and quality testing should be built into the program to ensure that patients are not being subjected to unsafe and untested cannabis.
10) Safe Banking System
A safe and secure banking and finance system must be established. Cash-only and overly complicated systems leave patients and the industry susceptible to criminal activity
Twenty states have enacted laws to stop jailing their residents for possession of small amounts of cannabis. Many states impose a civil fine, which avoids the life-altering collateral consequences a criminal record carries while also allowing law enforcement the ability to correct irresponsible behavior. Decriminalization laws avoid imposing harsh punishments for possessing a substance that is safer than alcohol, while freeing up law enforcement to focus on more serious crimes. Many of these laws were enacted in the 1970s, and they have proven so non-controversial that several of these laws have been expanded.
What we are proposing is to change the status of cannabis possession from a criminal to a civil offense. By making such a simple change thousands of Utahns will avoid the harsh reality of a lifelong criminal record. Our current criminal laws are harming our communities by making criminals out of young people, disproportionately targeting communities of color, and stretching limited law enforcement resources thin. Decriminalization coupled with other responsible drug policies will reduce the negative effect of draconian and outdated laws on our communities. To learn more, please visit our cannabis policy research center.
Utah is facing an overdose epidemic that is among the highest in the country. In June of 2015 Utah ranked 5th in the nation for drug overdose fatalities. Drug overdose deaths are the nation's leading cause of injury deaths. Here in Utah, drug overdose deaths are second only to suicide. In 2014, 289 people died overdosing on opioid painkillers, according to data from the Utah Department of Health. That's up by about 5 percent from 2013, when the toll was 274.
What we are proposing is a threefold campaign to address the overdose epidemic. First, establishing a comprehensive support network for those at risk of dependence and substance abuse. Communication between those using the most addictive prescriptions and their loved ones is essential for reducing addiction and dependence. Second, data collection and analysis must be coupled with proactive policies designed to reduce addiction and overdose. Lastly, public awareness of the issue needs to be raised and the epidemic needs to be given the recognition and attention it deserves.
Harm reduction is a public health philosophy and intervention that seeks to reduce the harms associated with drug use and ineffective drug policies. A basic tenet of harm reduction is that there has never been, and will never be, a drug-free society. We advocate reducing the harms of drug use through a lens of public health, using accurate, fact-based drug education, drug-related illness and injury prevention, and effective drug treatment for problematic use.
What we are proposing is a comprehensive public policy program designed to promote public health and to mitigate harm should be considered. We continue to seek public policies that encourage best practices approaches to drug use, drug treatment, and drug policy that are based on science and research.