COLUMN: Pot Of Gold

Harry Caines contributes a weekly column to Harry is a resident of Logan and an alumnus of Utah State University. He can be reached via email at His column is a work of opinion, and does not reflect the views of Cache Valley Daily, the Cache Valley Media Group, or its employees.

But let me get to the point.

Let’s roll another joint.

And turn the radio loud.

I’m too alone to be proud.”

—from the song “You Don’t Know How It Feels”, by Tom Petty (RIP)

I often refer to Utah as a theocracy. I am of the belief that a majority of the elected politicians in Utah believe that their first priority is to promote and implement the moral tenets espoused by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

To me, this is un-American. It is more than allowable for an elected official to use a source of faith in a deity to steer them in how they see the world and in the guidelines they use to do their job ethically. It is quite a different animal when faith is used in a secular office to promote a particular religion, or a specific church.

In my highly-intelligent and reasoned perspicacity, this is what makes Utah bad.

The most glaring way that Utah exudes its’ theocratic tendencies comes when the Mormon Church releases edicts, under the guise of press releases, on matters that are currently being debated in the Utah Legislature.

Although these press releases lack the bluntness of Moses standing on top of Mount Sinai pointing down at the Hebrews with an authoritarian finger, the message is received. When the Mormon Church sends out its’ stance regarding a political debate, it is their passive-aggressive way of moving its’ adherents, elected or not, to oppose the subject.

It happens infrequently, but enough to be noticed. And it happened again this week.

Recently, the Utah Legislature has opened debate on the legalization of marijuana use for medicinal purposes. This is a controversial move because, at least technically, marijuana is still technically illegal, according to federal statute.

Many states, unabashedly clothed in the 10th Amendment of the United States Constitution – which reads verbatim, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people” – have legalized marijuana use. And not just for medicinal purposes. Some states, Colorado for an example, have allowed for recreational use.

The advantage Colorado has on Utah has already been stated in this space. Colorado is not a theocracy.

And that brings us to Tuesday. The LDS Church released a statement opposing medical marijuana in Utah. In doing so, the LDS Church cited a report by the Utah Medical Association that suggested medical marijuana was still an unproven commodity.

The main problem with this is that the UMA’s mission is not to offer sound medical advice to Utahns and their elected officials. The UMA is an advocacy group for Utah physicians. A secondary problem is that the UMA’s opposition to medical marijuana is based on embellishments and the notorious “slippery slope” argument.

The UMA knows that many Utah doctors live off of drug samples and other perks granted to them by pharmaceutical companies. Big Pharma—a term I hate using—has nothing invested in the marijuana industry.

I also believe pharmaceutical companies use the UMA to ensure that rampant use of prescribed drugs continues. Prescription abuse exists in Utah and nobody in this state wants to tackle this issue.

Opioid abuse, legal and illegal, is the new polygamy. It is right in front of us, but we just don’t talk about it.

But smoking pot? Yeah, we gotta stop that!

Back on point, the Mormon Church is using a statement by a biased advocacy group filled with embellishments and half-truths to come out against a proposed law as an act meant to kill it by appealing to Mormon legislators to abide by their church’s will.

If you do not find this obscene and disgraceful, you are a part of the problem.

This is what un-American theocracies do. This is Utah.

I have lived here 14 years and I still do not understand why this state continues to support politicians that do not do everything within their job description to make the lives of people that live in the Beehive State better. Nearly every legitimate medical organization, which the UMA is not, has provided empirical scientific data showing how marijuana can help cure and/or lessen the effects of many ailments. The most noted of these is with deterring the nausea and vomiting that is the horrific side effect that comes with chemotherapy.

But even if skeptics want to suggest that pot smoking does not have the healing effects that most established medical institutions claim they do, there is one factoid that should be acknowledged.

Smoking marijuana isn’t harmful and should not be illegal in any capacity. The U.S. Government should not consider pot an addictive drug. And all states should consider the financial gain that comes with regulating and distributing a product that is less problematic to human health than soda. Any chance Utah upsets its’ sugar addicts by outlawing these drive-thru liquid crack factories anytime soon?

Utah is missing out on a pot of gold. Colorado is just one example of how recreational marijuana can be a boon for a state’s economy. The revenue stream that Colorado and other state’s tap into is one Utah shuns out of moral indignation.

Wouldn’t it be great if Utah taxed things people want instead of things people use? Gambling, prostitution, alcohol and marijuana are all things other states—to one degree or another—have come to terms with. They make money from these things. When you regulate and tax things that are considered vices, you are not condoning these behaviors, you are just making money from those wicked indulgences.

But that ain’t Utah’s brand. Silly, archaic laws rule here.

I know that recreational marijuana is a long way off in Utah. It is possible I will not see it in my lifetime. This state is too much filled with fear, stereotypes and misinformation to do what is economically smart. But for Utah pols to kill off medical marijuana because a fraudulent, crooked group like the Utah Medical Association gave a fraudulent recommendation to the LDS Church is borderline criminal.

Why would any elected official anywhere in the United States block a simple law that can help people who suffer from having a few moments of blissful relief?

Because they live in a theocracy.

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