What You Need to Know about Utah’s Prop 2 and Legalizing Medical Marijuana

Just after our oldest daughter turned four, she had a really big seizure, then weeks after, another smaller one, and again later, an even smaller one, so we put her on medication because the uncertainty of having a seizure, and how severe it might be, was horrifying. A year later, our nephew also began having seizures. You can imagine the conversations between us mothers! My sister-in-law brought up the option of medical marijuana as an apparently successful treatment option. I believe it was the first time I’d heard of marijuana being used medicinally. After thinking about it, I decided, sure, if it could really help someone who couldn’t be helped otherwise, why not give it a try? Luckily for us, though, regular medicine helped our daughter for the two years she was on it, and she never had another seizure.

So, when I heard medical marijuana was coming up on the Utah ballot as Proposition 2 this year, I thought, great! I’ll vote for it so it can help people who want to try it. I asked my more liberal husband what he was planning to do, and he surprisingly said, “no.” His big worry was that it’s establishing an alternate path outside of the FDA which doesn’t include scientific review and clinical studies for regulating drugs. As you are probably aware, my husband isn’t the only one concerned about this bill.

Although The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints opposes the general use of illicit drugs, a letter sent to members in Utah dated 23 August 2018 stated,

The Church does not object to the medicinal use of marijuana, if doctor prescribed, in dosage form, through a licensed pharmacy.

Undoubtedly this statement was likely a surprise to many, but the Church is anxious as many others are to find ways to “try to relieve human pain and suffering,” as mentioned by Elder Jack Gerard.

However, even though the Church supports the use of medical marijuana, they have joined a coalition consisting of politicians, businessmen, religions, educators, law enforcement, and even some medical marijuana patients and their families to oppose Prop 2. These groups and individuals have united together to propose changes to wording so that it will better protect patients, kids, and our community. Here are some of the concerns:

  • If Prop 2 passes, the distribution system for medical marijuana won’t be fully in place until July 2020. Anyone in possession of marijuana until then, but who could have had a medical marijuana card in the meantime, will be considered lawful. The trouble is that until the system is fully up and running, law enforcement won’t easily be able to tell who’s in possession of marijuana legally or not (p. 24, 58-37-3.7, 1). For more about law enforcement’s concerns, The Salt Lake Tribune compiled an extensive list.
  • Prop 2 requires that all sales records be destroyed within 60 days after purchase. Law enforcement is concerned here about tracking and prosecuting illegal usage (p. 11 26-60b-103, 2c). According to a quick Google search, other medical records can only be destroyed after seven years. Why would medical marijuana be any different? Plus wouldn’t some patients potentially want to access their own history?
  • Prop 2 changes the current classification of possessing marijuana from a misdemeanor or a felony to an infraction, or the same as a traffic ticket, with a $100 fine (p. 6, 4-41b-404, 4). Is an infraction penalty enough for illegal possession? Will a $100 fine deter criminal activity?
  • The coalition is concerned about the proposed privately owned dispensaries as opposed to pharmacy distribution (p. 17, 26-60b-301). Because marijuana is a schedule 1 drug, it legally cannot be distributed through a pharmacy. Some opponents of the coalition believe the coalition wants pharmaceutical intervention because they’re really just trying to completely block the initiative. However, the Church, as a supporter of the coalition, has stated they are willing to come up with a compassionate compromise. Perhaps this could include a dispensary with a licensed pharmacist. In the meantime, if we eventually want medical marijuana through the same methods we are used to getting other prescription drugs, we can and should help move this forward by individually petitioning our federal government.
  • When a person goes to a dispensary, they could be given 2 ounces of unprocessed marijuana, (or the equivalent of 100 joints) in a bag every two weeks (p. 20 26-60b-502, 3). Now I’m sure some people would know what to do with this, but personally, I wouldn’t have a clue! I was able to hear Enadina Stanger, a medical marijuana patient who obtained her medication in Colorado where it is legal, share her story of trying to figure out how to use what she was given. It took her a year to figure out correct dosage. I can imagine her hope and excitement of using medical marijuana, but also her frustration of not knowing how to use it and having to learn by experimentation. If we could get this standardized, wouldn’t it surely limit the frustration?

I truly hope the coalition and the supporters of Prop 2 can find a compromise so people who want to legally use medical marijuana will be able but without some of the potential societal risks inherent in Prop 2 as it is currently written. I also hope we can work to change marijuana’s drug classification at a federal level so we can test and regulate it. Is medical marijuana legal in your area? What impact, positive or negative, has it had on your community? How has it helped people?

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