Monday, February 1, 2010

"Cannabis Closet": one Utah legislator steps out

Posted By on February 1, 2010, 4:09 PM

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A local activist identified the first legislator who is willing to speak openly about the medical benefits of the Earth's most controversial herbal remedy: marijuana.

"We're pro-neutraceutical here [in Utah]," says Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, the Salt Lake City Democrat says. She represents the Avenues and part of downtown. "I'm kind of surprised I'm the only one [willing to speak publicly about it]. ... There are [14] other states that are doing it. We can learn from them. ... There are a lot of people who suffer very acute pain for whom this is a good option. I think it needs to be looked at." ---

As I wrote in December, Legalize Utah activist Gradi Jordan (@Gradi420 on Twitter) has sent e-mails to each Utah House and Senate member seeking their current stance on medical marijuana, a schlep of political groundwork that hadn't been done recently, if ever, in regards to medical marijuana in Utah. For awhile, it seemed she would receive only criticism or silence in response.

"I'm calling it the 'cannabis closet,'" Jordan says. "[Chavez-Houck] is the first one to come out."

Both Jordan and Chavez-Houck have given me permission to republish the e-mail below. I should also note that Democratic majority leader David Litvack told City Weekly his party is willing to look at the issue, but didn't say much more than that. He advised Jordan to find more constituents able to push her agenda. As you can read below, Chavez-Houck goes beyond open-minded, actually espousing some benefits of medical marijuana and identifying the difficulties of prohibition. 

Dear Gradi,

I appreciate your concern and interest in the issue pertaining to the legalization of marijuana. I concur with you that the current legislation we have in place regarding marijuana has been highly ineffective and is costing our taxpayers money. One of the largest problems with any marijuana legislation is the inability to scientifically show when  the drug was used and how much was used. The inability to provide exact measurements makes it nearly impossible to enact any sort of Driving Under the Influence restrictions. The only solution to this problem is to impose a blanket No Tolerance policy, which in the past have been proved to be ineffective and often harmful to due process.These sort of restrictions would be unfair to marijuana users considering the current laws in place surrounding alcohol. I do support any research and investigation into this area and would very much so like to see progress made.

In addition to those concerns I also support the use of medical marijuana and definitely can see the benefits associated with its uses. Cancer patients lives are improved drastically by its use, and improving the quality of life for the sick is one of the chief responsibilities for the medical profession. If the legalization of marijuana helps to further this goal, then I will support it in medical contexts. However, once again issues arise with granting access to a life-improving drug to only certain groups of people, and the medical profession would be charged with making the decision of whom is eligible. An almost insurmountable and expensive task. As you can see this issue is extremely complex, and we as legislators are tasked with attempting to represent the people with their best interests in mind. I do believe that in this instance the greater good would be served, but until there are more effective methods and clear cut lines on the issue we will be bogged down in procedure and semantics indefinitely.

I will certainly express your view to my colleagues in the House of Representatives, and urge them to investigate themselves into the evidence you have presented. I personally would like to thank your for your diligence and civic responsibility. By engaged and active citizens we are able to strengthen our democracy until every voice is heard.

Sincerely,
Representative Chavez-Houck
Utah House of Representatives


Representative Rebecca Chavez-Houck
District 24
Utah State House of Representatives
rchouck@utah.gov

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