Weber Co. medical marijuana boosters heighten efforts as Prop 2 debate sizzles

This article originally appeared in the Standard Examiner. Read it in its entirety here

RIVERDALE — A few years back, if you brought up the notion of legalizing marijuana for medical use at the Capitol in Salt Lake City, you’d likely end up talking to yourself.

“They totally ignored us five years ago,” said Kathy Marriott, who’s been active on the issue for several years, in part because the substance has helped her daughter deal with chronic pain. “They were calling it snake oil. They were just doing everything in their power to discourage us.”

She and others didn’t let up, and now the debate has broken wide open, turning into one of the hot topics of the political cycle in Utah. Proposition 2, on the Nov. 6 ballot, calls for legalization of the use of medical marijuana, and as Election Day nears, the political wrangling over the proposal is reaching a pitch.

More specifically, it would permit use of medical marijuana by people with certain medical conditions, with restrictions on the quantity that may be consumed in a 14-day period, according to the ABU Education Fund, a nonprofit group that promotes civic engagement. The proposal also outlines licensing guidelines for cultivation of the drug, which users would have to acquire at licensed dispensaries.

Red signs calling for passage of Prop 2, as it’s known, are popping up in yards all around Ogden and the rest of Weber County, and Marriott and other proponents took to Riverdale Road in Riverdale on Monday to tout the cause.

“I want the right to try it,” said Jessica Fiveash, among the contingent of a dozen or so demonstrating from the sidewalk abutting the busy commercial corridor, some waving red “I’m voting for Prop 2” signs.

She suffers from fibromyalgia, which can cause intense pain, and quit her job as a teacher in Roy because it got to be too much. The correct strain of medical cannabis could help, she thinks, and potentially get her off opioids, the current alternative.

As is, opiods, Fiveash said, have taken a heavy toll. “I can’t think as well. I’m not as sharp. I lose my train of thought,” she said. “I want a natural alternative to try.”

Marriott — using a cane because of chronic pain she suffers, pain she thinks medical pot could help address — describes it as a matter of life and death. Use and abuse of opiods, the legal drug used to address some of the pain issues cannabis proponents say the alternative substance could counter, led to around 175,000 deaths nationwide between 1999 and 2013. That’s from Napoli and Shkolnik, a law firm helping lead the legal fight against opioid makers stemming from the ill effects of use of the drug.

“We’re hoping that the people will stop dying, is what it is,” Marriott said. “We’re tired of going to funerals.”

In light of the years of debate, Marriott sees a softening of views on the issue, giving her hope about Prop 2’s prospects. Utah lawmakers have gone back and forth on the issue over the years, but with the Prop 2 debate intensifying, state lawmakers recently crafted a compromise proposal that takes into account some of the critics’ concerns, also allowing medical marijuana use. Medical cannabis would have to be sold in dosages, only at pharmacies, per the alternative, and provisions allowing cultivation of plants for personal use would be removed, according to ABU Education Fund. It also contains new language clarifying and limiting when medical marijuana may be used.

Indeed, Marriott has noted increased openness in discussing the subject, underscored by the alternative proposal. Likewise, those who rely on the drug are more and more willing to speak out about their experiences.

“It’s been little baby steps,” she said. “It’s been a long, hard road, but we’re almost to the end.”

This article originally appeared in the Standard Examiner. Read it in its entirety here

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