Pubdate: Tue, 23 Feb 2016
Source: Salt Lake Tribune (UT)
Copyright: 2016 The Salt Lake Tribune
Author: Connor Boyack
Note: Connor Boyack is the president of Libertas Institute.


Day after day, Utahns suffering from a wide range of serious medical 
conditions join us on Capitol Hill to advocate in favor of Senate 
Bill 73, which would legalize cannabis for those with cancer, chronic 
pain, Crohn's, epilepsy, MS, ALS and other conditions. They spend 
hours waiting for legislators to speak with them - and, too often, 
they are ignored.

To be frank, most senators seem sick of them - they don't want to 
look these people in the eye. Doing so would make it far more 
difficult to cast a vote that would keep them in the shadows of 
society, threatened with arrest, fines, incarceration and more.

It would humanize the issue, forcing them to set aside their 
superficial talking points, unfounded fears or comparatively 
unimportant concerns.

Laughter is often used to break tension, so it's little surprise to 
see legislators make light of the marijuana issue. As was the case 
during last year's legislative session, elected officials this year 
have mocked the effort - and by extension, the patients it aims to 
help - by talking about THC being used only for "fun," wondering who 
is bringing brownies to the Capitol for a snack, "research" trips to 
Colorado and smoking doobies.

While these comments are surely made in jest, and without malicious 
intent, they are still a smack in the face to thousands of Utahns who 
see their lives hanging in the balance. This is their medicine.

Would we tolerate elected officials mocking patients of other 
illnesses and the medication they take? Imagine the outcry if a 
legislator said that a Kindergarten class reminded him of an episode 
of "Breaking Bad," given how many kids with ADHD use Ritalin and 
Adderall (close cousins of methamphetamine).

What if one of them quipped, while touring a chemotherapy clinic, 
that it looked like an Auschwitz reunion?

How would you react if a legislator told your ailing parent, using 
opiates to relieve substantial pain from a neck injury, to "suck it up"?

Most people would be offended by these scenarios, but somehow it's OK 
if another medicine that is improving and saving the lives of many 
sick and suffering Utahns is stigmatized, criticized and scorned.

Our efforts to legalize medical cannabis span several years, and in 
that time Utah voters have had a profound shift in opinion on the 
issue. The primary reason, we suspect, is because patients have 
become more comfortable sharing their use of (or need for) cannabis 
with friends and family. It has humanized the issue for hundreds of 
thousands of Utahns.

Everybody knows somebody who has suffered from cancer, or who suffers 
tremendous pain each day, or whose life is ravaged by PTSD. These and 
the other conditions for which cannabis can help are a part of our 
lives. And if cannabis can reduce suffering or provide healing and 
relief to a friend or family member, we're increasingly likely to 
support its legal and safe access.

Legislators like to claim that they're watching out for the public 
good, or voting against legalization out of a concern for underage 
use, driving under the influence or preventing a slippery slope 
towards recreational legalization. These same legislators, however, 
would surely move heaven and earth to legalize this plant if it were 
their child or grandchild whose condition could not be abated with 
pharmaceuticals but might stand a chance with cannabis.

Patients lobbying for Senate Bill 73 are exhausted. On top of dealing 
with their physical ailments, their visits to the Capitol have 
brought them derision by some, avoidance by others and rejection by 
many. No wonder they're eager to launch a ballot initiative and turn 
their attention to the public, which overwhelmingly supports them.

In the name of both civil discourse and compassion, let's please stop 
poking fun at our friends and neighbors, merely because their 
medicine happens to be the target of decades of reefer madness 
propaganda and ignorance. Lives hang in the balance - let's act accordingly.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom