by Paul Mero

Now that the Utah Medical Marijuana Initiative has inched closer to obtaining a spot on the November statewide ballot, it is a good time to get absolutely real about what policies, and their societal effects, are at stake. Supporters of the measure argue that good people are being forced to break the law just to relieve chronic pain. Opponents argue that this initiative is simply the first step in a broader campaign to legalize pot, as in Colorado. So who is right?

Every statewide ballot initiative permits supporters and opponents to offer a few words to argue their case with voters. I would add a new category of ballot explanation titled, “The Truth” and here is what I would argue:

Utah already permits terminally ill patients to use marijuana for pain relief. However, the state has not legalized marijuana. The Utah Medical Marijuana Initiative was created to expand the use of marijuana to people suffering from “chronic and debilitating pain,” and not just limit it for use by terminally ill patients. Supporters of the initiative, the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C. and Utah’s own basket of libertarian ideologues at Libertas Institute, are well known for their support of full and unconditional legalization of marijuana. These supporters believe smoking pot is a right and any restrictions harm freedom.

Opponents of the initiative, primarily the Utah Medical Association, Utah’s Governor Gary Herbert and the LDS Church, are concerned that the initiative will establish marijuana use in Utah as reasonable and commonplace, leading ultimately to full and unconditional legalization.

The truth is the Utah Medical Marijuana Initiative is neither needed as a practical matter nor good public policy generally.

Supporters of the initiative are prepared with every type of so-called evidence in defending the indefensible. Their first argument is that Utahns support medical marijuana and this initiative overwhelmingly. The truth is Utahns support relieving suffering and have great compassion for their struggling neighbors – which is why their legislators passed a bill to allow the use of marijuana for the terminally ill. Every public opinion poll so far has asked the wrong question. The right question sounds like this, “Do you support allowing Utah doctors to prescribe marijuana as a chronic pain reliever?” Or this question, “Utah already permits the use of marijuana in cases of terminally ill patients. Do you support expanding this limited use to general chronic pain relief?”

Supporters argue that their initiative requires strict controls and heavy regulations. The truth is that the initiative creates “cannabis dispensaries, facilities and selling agents” controlled only by the following definitions: 1) A “cannabis cultivation facility” is a person (yes, a person) who “possesses cannabis, or who grows or intends to grow cannabis or sells or intends to sell” cannabis; 2) a “cannabis cultivation facility agent” is someone who owns or works for a cannabis cultivation facility; and 3) a “cannabis dispensary” is a person (yes, a person) who “acquires or intends to acquire” cannabis. Folks, that was me when I was 17 years old! I was a cannabis facility, agent and dispensary all wrapped up in one!

Supporters argue that the initiative limits the use of marijuana to cases of “chronic and debilitating pain.” That expression, “chronic and debilitating pain,” is undefined. And for anyone who cannot quite fit within that broad medical category, the initiative creates a “Compassionate Use Board.” That’s cool. So, if you do not fit into any acceptable medical category but still feel the need to use marijuana, you can plead your case to a group of doctors and clinicians whose stated job is to be “compassionate.”

The initiative would require people wanting to use marijuana to first obtain a “medical use” card. The card would then allow that person to “purchase, possess, use and transport” cannabis. To get this “get-out-of-jail-free” card, the person goes to a “qualified” doctor who agrees that the person “may benefit” from using marijuana. That’s it!

And, finally, the initiative would maintain the current legal ban on “smoking marijuana, driving under the influence of marijuana, or using it in public view.” This might be the most disingenuous part of the initiative. Supporters argue for the legalization of marijuana precisely because they say the “War on Pot,” including these laws, do not work – but one part of the camel in the tent at a time.

The truth is the Utah Medical Marijuana Initiative is a ruse being perpetrated by Utah libertarians and radicalized potheads across the country – regardless of the good people these deceivers front as medically needy. The D.C. lobbyists at the Marijuana Policy Project, old hippies at NORML and our own liberty-loving kooks at Libertas Institute feign a non-existent morality – some pot-induced moral code that only consuming marijuana will appease.

Let me be as blunt as I can: You must be high to think this initiative is a good idea.

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