About a year ago, City Weekly decided to hold a medical cannabis conference. It would be Utah's first ever. Six months ago, it got a name, Utah Cann, and a home, the Mountain America Credit Union South Towne Expo Center. And on Oct. 19-20, the convention's doors will open to introduce Utah to a new era of medical cannabis education. That all said, and disclaimer proclaimed, yes, I'm biased as hell in support of medical cannabis.
If you believe the same, I'll see you at Utah Cann.
More than 25 years ago, our first Gay Pride parade stretched only a few blocks, with paltry supporters along the downtown route. Then, some of the Mormon faithful broke ranks and began marching with their gay family members, rather than relegating them to lives of omission and scorn; notably among them, Gary and Millie Watts who very publicly supported their gay son, Craig. A movement was born when the Watts' were chosen as grand marshals of the 1999 Gay Pride parade. We can be proud of the thoughtful and compassionate Mormons who support an equality-based Utah society.
It was evident then that the church at Temple Square (or LDS or Mormon—I'm confused and I'm sticking to what my grandmother said she was, a Mormon) was on the wrong side of a historic movement. Now, in regards to medical cannabis—the Proposition 2 witch hunt and subsequent "compromise" bill—they are on the wrong side again. Not only have general opinions softened about medical cannabis, but young people raised in that particular faith are inclined to think and live independently. Let's do some math: On the bright side, according to gender-study experts, around 10 percent of any population is comprised of LGBTQ individuals. Thus, so are Mormon families.
Now, another movement is swelling.
Not 10 percent of Utah's population, but near 100, will, during their lifetime, be affected either directly or through a family member by the pain of cancer, a different maddening disease or from blowing out a knee at Brigham Young University. They will watch their soldiers coming home with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and others will endure lifestyle trauma that triggers PTSD in them, too. Take a look around. Do you have a neighbor with an autistic child or parent in geriatric care? Epilepsy maybe, or Tourette's? People diagnosed with depression or anxiety who are prescribed addictive little white pills to make it go away? Did your carpet-layer knees lead to opioid addiction? Do you recall a life lost to overdose?
All Utahns have a need for the single medicine that a growing number of patients, physicians and medical studies suggests gives benefit to all of the above—cannabis. So, why the hubbub? Well, the simple answer is fear—we've all been taught that marijuana is a gateway drug to even worse drugs and that users are hippies who hate America, crazy bikers who love America, societal misfits and people who have just lost their way and therefore, need ... drum roll: religion.
The "opposition" as they woefully call themselves (who opposes health?)—is a cabal of identical faces comprised of the dominant religion, business leaders, so-called medical experts and moralists. The dominant religion is very concerned for one reason: They have lost control of this issue and want to salvage their piece of it by saving face now. Meanwhile, in the background, the stage is being set to control the legal cannabis networks that'll enrich all of those opponents over the next few decades.
You think liquor makes a buck? Wait until you see what legal cannabis does. It's fair to say less than 100 percent of all Utahns consume liquor. Comparably, we all medicate.
The opposition wants us to think they are working hard to get it right, yadda yadda. They won't. Since 1968, they haven't gotten liquor right. Trusting them to turn a new leaf in regards to medical cannabis is like trusting a mountain lion to tend your children.
That's what happened last week, when Proposition 2 representatives (just two groups) and opposition leaders met behind closed doors, then gathered for a photo-op with the Governor to reveal their retooled initiative. But where were other proponent allies? I don't know Connor Boyack of Libertas and I barely know D.J. Shanz of the Utah Patients Coalition. That day, they looked like a platter of fried eggs. It's not a compromise, fellas. It's a delay. It's a way to split support for Proposition 2.
So, what's next? Come to Utah Cann. We'll match our medical experts against the war machine of the Utah Medical Association. We will mano a mano their business "leaders" with our cannabis business "experts." Want to square up? We know plenty of religious faithful who stand for Prop 2. I'd like House Speaker Greg Hughes to be there. I like Greg—anyone who's met him would. Over breakfast recently, I told him he was on the wrong team on medical cannabis and urged him to change sides. He asked why.
I said, "Well, Greg, the people pushing you can be known as champions of doing the right thing, get cross-aisle support and grab some Democratic voters, or they can be known as baby killers. What's it gonna be?" His blue eyes said, "Woah!"
Labels aren't fair, but they're powerful. It's harsh, but that's how I feel, especially because the opponents have presented lie after lie about this issue from the start. They debase persons who use or need to use medical cannabis. They deride motives and ignore hurt. Waiting, wringing their hands, callously setting up rubrics that delay even one person—one baby—the medical relief that families are breaking laws to obtain by driving to Nevada or Colorado is criminal. It's also unjust and immoral. The time to put fear and ignorance aside is now. Enough with the photo ops; our health should be apolitical.
Many believe the "compromise" bill was intended to negatively affect voter turnout during the Nov. 6 election. Go out and vote and let your voice be heard. The will of Utahns cannot be silenced. Get educated at Utah Cann. Do it for our babies.
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