A new medical cannabis law has taken effect in Utah—but not the one that voters approved in November. A conversation at the Park City Library on Tuesday will explain how it affects patients. KPCW’s Emily Means has more.
Summit County voters overwhelmingly supported Proposition 2, with 76% of votes cast in its favor. But confusion set in when, a day after the law went into effect, the state legislature voted on a replacement bill that changed what was outlined in the citizen initiative. A discussion Tuesday aims to answer some questions around the new law, from the perspective of Proposition 2 supporters and patients.
“We’re going where the need is. We had some locals reach out to us and ask us to do a panel.”
That’s Christine Stenquist, founder of patient advocacy organization TRUCE, or Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education. As a supporter of Prop 2, Stenquist has some concerns with the replacement law. She likened the dispensing system under the new law to how Utah’s Dept. of Alcoholic Beverage Control functions, with the Dept. of Health acting as a central fill station for cannabis prescriptions. But with cannabis still illegal at the federal level, she argues the state has put its employees at risk by requiring them to dispense the drug, as compared to the system proposed by the ballot initiative.
“The model that we saw in Proposition 2 supported a free market model which you see in the other 33 states that have a medical cannabis program, like we were trying to implement," Stenquist said. "So that being the biggest problem that we see, we wonder if the authors of HB3001 really were looking for an accessible program for patients because of the way this is written and the way they’ve gone about it.”
Stenquist’s personal experience with medical cannabis led to the formation of TRUCE. Diagnosed with a brain tumor in 1996, she found doctor-prescribed medication didn’t alleviate her symptoms, including chronic pain and nausea. After researching her options, Stenquist elected to try cannabis, but found it difficult to access.
“Procuring a bag of an illegal substance in this state looking like a housewife, like I do, was very difficult, and I realized in trying to procure that that I wanted to make a program here in Utah that makes patients not feel like criminals," she said. "I don’t want to have to wait in the Wendy’s parking lot to get a bag of medicine. So, that was my desire to change sort of the landscape in Utah on how we approach cannabis.”
After the passage of the replacement law, Stenquist, along with Epilepsy Association of Utah Vice President Doug Rice, filed a lawsuit against the state, with attorney, former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, calling the legislature’s actions unconstitutional. Money from a GoFundMe campaign pays the legal fees. Stenquist says more plaintiffs are signing on to the suit.
“There has to be a change. We cannot say the people, the voters of Utah, have the same equal footing as the legislative body, and then watch our efforts be undermined on the first business day. There’s gotta be a change. So we’re hoping to push the dialogue.”
The event, Unpacking the new Medical Cannabis Law: A Patient's perspective, takes place Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Park City Library. It will also be livestreamed on TRUCE’s Facebook page.