Our state lawmakers have come a long way since Utah’s Medical Cannabis Act passed a few years ago. While they were initially hesitant to enact a Medical Cannabis law, they did so in response to what the voters said they wanted. In the years since, they have continually tried to improve our program. They deserve kudos for their latest effort to stand up for government workers.
Despite the fact that Medical Cannabis is a legally allowed substance in Utah, certain municipalities in the state are not allowing public employees to use their medicines. In fact, some public servants are finding themselves in hot water just for possessing Medical Cannabis Cards. Police officers and firefighters immediately come to mind. This is not right, and state lawmakers have recognized as much.
FOX 13 reports that the Government Operations Interim Committee heard from a variety of Medical Cannabis advocates during a recent hearing at which the topic of discrimination against public employees was brought up. Numerous lawmakers made it clear that municipalities defying state law and punishing Medical Cannabis users was unacceptable.
To combat the problem, legislators have drafted a new bill that clearly defines how Medical Cannabis can be used by government workers. The bill reinforces the idea that Medical Cannabis has to be treated like any other controlled substance recommended for patients by prescription.
Simply put, state government workers can’t be punished for using Medical Cannabis. However, they are not allowed to use cannabis while working and they cannot come to work impaired. It is the same type of thing that applies to other prescription drugs, like pain medications.
When you get right down to it, the way some municipalities treat Medical Cannabis creates an unnecessary conflict. Think about it. If police department policy recognizes legally prescribed pain medication as appropriate for certain medical conditions, why treat legally recommended Medical Cannabis any differently? If it is okay for firefighters to use pain medication off the job, why is it inappropriate for them to use Medical Cannabis?
What it really boils down to is the ongoing stigma attached to all things cannabis. Cannabis has been demonized for decades and, in 1970, the federal government added cannabis to the Schedule I list of controlled substances. Classifying cannabis as Schedule I worsened the stigma by defining it as something without a currently accepted medical use.
Furthermore, we think the government has done a great disservice to patients across the country by limiting research into cannabis as a medicine.
Few other drugs have been treated as poorly as cannabis over the last fifty years. The stigma related to this particular drug continues even today, despite the fact that three dozen states now have legal Medical Cannabis programs in place.
We take our collective hats off to the Utah state legislators taking a stand against local governments that would discriminate against Medical Cannabis patients. While the bill they have proposed is limited to government workers, state lawmakers are encouraging private employers to treat Medical Cannabis like any other prescription medicine. To that we say, keep up the good work.
Our Medical Cannabis law is by no means perfect. We are still learning the best ways to implement Medical Cannabis in Utah. As we go, we will have to make adjustments to the rules. That is the way things work when government sails into uncharted waters. In the meantime, we should expect a few rough patches.
Be sure to thank state lawmakers for standing up for workers, for what is right. The more we show our support, the more they will do on behalf of Medical Cannabis patients and the industry as a whole.