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Easing the pain: Medical Cannabis in Utah

With the ongoing political antics that we are witnessing in the Presidential Race, it
amazes me to think about our founding forefathers and their basis for the Constitution. Even
though we say Land of the Free in our National Anthem, some of those freedoms are often
threatened by those who were tasked to uphold them. Most of the issues I believe in are in
complete contrast to what the majority of Utah and the Utah government believe in. The ACLU
(American Civil Liberties Union) is involved with the fight for Americans civil liberties which
can be many different fights. The ACLU is a champion of segments of the population who have
traditionally been denied their rights, with much of our work today focused on equality for
people of color, women, gay and transgender people, prisoners, immigrants, and people with
disabilities. (
Right now, the ACLU is working with State Senator Mark Madsen on the senate bill to
allow an individual with a qualifying illness who registers with the Department of Heath to
possess and use, under certain circumstances, cannabis, a cannabis product, or a medical
cannabis dispensary. (Madsen) This isnt the first time this bill has been introduced to the
legislature but this year, it is getting a lot of visibility due to the recent statement by the Church
of Latter Day Saints opposing the proposal. Senator Madsen, disappointed by the statement said
Maybe they dont want to be known as the special interest who put their thumb on the scale and
decided this for everyone in the state. If they are going to put their thumb on the scale politically
and force everyone to a standard, then I think they owe something of an explanation to the
people. ( Despite the Churchs opposition, a recent poll from the Libertas
Institute of Utah, 72% of Utahans approve of medical cannabis for those with medical conditions
that warrant it.

Realizing the values of the LDS religion, it is obvious why they oppose legalizing
medical cannabis. This opposition could be because most people think of cannabis to be more of
a recreational drug also known as marijuana and that is not acceptable or can be addictive. Dr.
Donald Abrams, a medical doctor in charge of Hematology and Medical Oncology at the
University of California has long researched this subject and done several clinical trials using
various therapies such as Chinese Medicine, medical mushrooms and cannabis. He states that
marijuana is a term that I would like to move away from and the reason I prefer cannabis is
because that is the name of the plant and the medicine. (Gustafson). That is what most people
dont realize. The ACLU is not supporting a bill to legalize marijuana for recreational use, they
are supporting a bill for people who are in great pain and suffering. Dr. Abrams goes on to say
that the term marijuana was actually introduced by Henry Anslinger, who was the first head of
the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, who actually began the prohibition against cannabis as
medicine using the Mexican name for the drug to blindside physicians into not appreciating that
he was actually talking about cannabis.
Because the majority of the State Legislature is LDS, the statements that the church
makes for or against a bill have a large impact. The ACLU of Utah is an advocate of medical
cannabis and is working locally and nationally to increase the number of states that legalize
cannabis and to dissuade the federal government from prosecuting people for using medical

marijuana in compliance with state laws. ( The journal article Medical Marijuana: A
Primer On Ethics, Evidence, and Politics recognizes that the controversy in the United States
about the decriminalization of cannabis to allow health care providers to recommend it for
therapeutic use has been based on varying policies and beliefs about cannabis rather than on
scientific evidence. (Philipsen)
When you look closely at this debate, you realize there are sides and opinions that cloud
the issue further. First, you have physicians and medical professionals that, according to Nayna
Philipsen, a registered nurse and a professor of law and ethics, see the unrelieved suffering of a
patient and who intervene to change laws denying that patient access to therapeutic marijuana.
(Philipsen) Then you have the lawmakers. In Utah, that means a lot of LDS population having
to decide something that goes against their fundamental beliefs and values. Because marijuana
use as a recreational drug became popular during the social movements and antiwar sentiments,
many felt fear and then Congress passes the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.

Ever since then, the fight to get medical cannabis legalized at the state level has been an uphill
battle. Then you have the patients. They have the personal interest of easing their pain and
suffering. They arent looking at it from the eyes of a drug user saying I hope I am sick enough
to get registered for medical cannabis so I can get high. They want relief. In the case Casias v.
Walmart, Joseph Casias had an inoperable brain tumor and cancer. He was a father and a
husband who worked his way up to management at Walmart. In 2008, Michigan passed a
Medical Marijuana Act and Joseph went through the proper registration channels and the results
were decreased pain, no nausea, and increased appetite. He used marijuana in the privacy of his
home on off-days and never went to work after smoking it. Even though he complied with all
the state laws, Walmart fired him as soon as they found out he was a medical marijuana patient.
The ACLU sued Walmart on Josephs behalf saying no employer should be allowed to intrude
upon private medical decisions made by employees in consultation with their personal doctor.
No corporation not even Walmart should be allowed to flout state law. (Casias v Wal-Mart
Stores) Even though Casias followed the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act and went through the
proper regulatory procedures, the court rejected Casias's argument that his termination violated
Michigan public policy citing that accepting his interpretation could possibly prevent any
company in the state from imposing any discipline on a qualifying patient who uses marijuana in
line with the MMMA. (Casias v Wal-Mart Stores) This is similar to other decisions in
California, Colorado and Washington.
In times where the government is chipping away at our personal freedoms, it is important
to realize that the ACLU and ACLU Utah are there to defend Americans regardless of race,
religion, age, or gender. The people of the state of Utah should have the right to decide their
personal medical decisions based on physician recommendations. They have the right to have a

voice that gives them the personal freedom that the Constitution outlined. Many people disagree
or dont support the ACLU but they stand up for the people when they feel an injustice has taken
place. They support those people and groups who are in need and they will continue to stand up
as long as injustice and discrimination are in our states and country.

Works Cited
"American Civil Liberties Union." American Civil Liberties Union. N.p., 2015. Web. 10 Feb. 2016
Casias v Wal-Mart Stores. District Court W.D. Michigan. 11 Feb. 2011. CourtListener. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Feb. 2016.
Daniels, Josh. "Help Us Legalize Medical Cannabis in Utah | Libertas Institute." Libertas Institute Advancing the
Cause of Liberty in Utah RSS. Libertas Institute, 8 Feb. 2016. Web. 20 Feb. 2016.
Gustafson C. Donald Abrams, MD: Evidence-based Efficacy of Medical Use of Cannabis. Integrative Medicine: A
Clinician's Journal [serial on the Internet]. (2013, Oct), [cited February 9, 2016]; 12(5): 24-27 4p. Available from:
CINAHL Complete.
Madsen, Mark B. "Utah State Legislature." SB0073., 19 Jan. 2016. Web. 10 Feb. 2016.
Philipsen, Nayna, et al. "Medical Marijuana: A Primer On Ethics, Evidence, And Politics." Journal For Nurse
Practitioners 10.9 (2014): 633-642 10p. CINAHL Complete. Web. 9 Feb. 2016.
"Utah Medical Pot Bills Will Be Debated in Wake of Mormon Church Opposition." The Cannabist. Denver Post, 9 Feb.
2016. Web. 10 Feb. 2016.