Utah State Senator Mark Madsen (Republican-Saratoga Springs) has been known to go to the minority caucus to ask if they want to pre-order the new state firearm. He has even been seen on the Senate chamber floor carrying machetes for full symbolic effect after deliberations on legislative process.
As an Eagle Scout, a BYU Law graduate, and a 32nd degree Scottish Rite Freemason, he takes his freedoms very seriously and defends them vigorously. That is why this 10-year veteran of the Utah legislature has been known to defend the rights of the oppressed in matters of firearm ownership, the rights of crime victims, and of federalism education.
After a recent trip to Colorado on his doctor’s advice, Madsen became convinced that a re-examination of the availability of medical marijuana should be part of Utah’s public discussion. “[SB 259 – Medical Cannabis Amendments] re-introduces a small increment of freedom for willing doctors and willing patients who believe that medical cannabis might be an alternative to other treatments, or an augmentation to other treatments. For example, an oncologist might want to prescribe it in addition to chemotherapy, to stimulate appetite, or a neurologist might want to prescribe it as an alternative to opiates that have some pretty serious side effects,” said Madsen in a media event prior to the bill’s introduction at the state capitol.
Madsen described his personal experience with chronic back pain, surgeons, and specialists who he has sought for treatment both in Utah and out of the state. A number of them were offering medical cannabis as an alternative to an opioid regimen. “There was a lot of misunderstanding on the issue and an opportunity to really improve public policy.”
“[SB 259] does not force anyone to do anything. That goes against my political philosophy,” stated Madsen. His bill allows those who qualify to register with the Utah Tax Commission for permission to possess a “non-combustible” form of medical cannabis, and defines those who could be licensed to grow and provide it in authorized forms, again via authority issued by the state’s tax commission. “We’re not going to have head shops in Utah,” he clarified.
Senator Madsen was asked if he had ever tried marijuana. He nodded yes in response while saying, “I drove to Colorado [during this past Valentine’s Day Weekend] and tried that under the direction of my doctor.” He also believed that the cannabis was effective. “It has effective analgesic properties and I experienced a diminution in my level of pain,” he continued by adding, “Frankly, at a certain point they told me to wait and that the effects would come over time but after a couple of hours I asked myself, ‘Is this what all the fuss is about?’ I mean it helped, but, ‘Schedule 1’ The most dangerous drug there is? I’m not sure that’s true and the basis for good policy.”
The state has previously carved-out exemptions for the use of cannabis oil for pediatric epilepsy patients and in July, 50 cards for that use had been issued by the state’s Health Department.
All state marijuana authorizations remain illegal under federal laws – something Madsen refers to when he addresses the “freedom” for the state to authorize cannabis use in “certain circumstances.” The same entity that refers Utahns to information on the “potential dangers of prescription pain medication,” Utah’s Department of Health, is at the forefront of that discussion and partners with other public health entities serving the Beehive State in an effort to assist those in need of care and caregivers, alike.
Utah’s Governor Herbert has said that he believes that the subject could “morph into a discussion or policy that we don’t want to have in Utah.” But even in the midst of senior Senate leadership, there was a mood of understanding and some level of acceptance as Madsen continued his pre-committee briefing.
Reporters asked him how he felt that the subject would be received in a state where even liquor laws are very conservative and often the subject of heated debate. “It has a very strong, emotional, knee-jerk reaction from a lot of folks,” said the medical cannabis bill’s sponsoring Senator, “I think we need to push past that emotion and past the propaganda that’s been promulgated over the years, to get to the real facts.” To do that, Madsen intends to have law enforcement, medical and psychological testimony presented on Thursday morning before the Utah Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee and has planned a press conference afterward. That’s where he will likely tell some of the state’s most conservative lawmakers that “‘Reefer Madness’ is neither medical research nor public policy,” in an effort to convince the grey-haired generation that his is a bill about “compassion and freedom” for the right medical treatment options.