Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Cannabis in Utah: Why I'm not worried

As many of you know,  I have been working to help Senator Madsen pass the medical Marijuana bill in Utah.  I used cannabis oil after discovering I had Hodgkins Lymphoma in August 2014.  I was 16 weeks pregnant at the time and was trying to keep my cancer from growing long enough to get my baby here safely.  I left my family to live in Colorado and California so I could legally treat myself with cannabis.  During this time I studied, attended conferences, talked to many doctors across the country, spoke with church leaders, and met many patients who have used cannabis to successfully treat their medical issues.  I realized this plant has been hugely misunderstood and abused. It is an amazing medicine that we need desperately.  Here are a few things I experienced first hand about medical cannabis:

*Cannabis can help dramatically with pain, appetite, sleep, and nausea without the side effects and extreme addiction of opiates and many prescription drugs.  
*It is impossible to overdose on cannabis (and in the pain medication world, that’s really saying something).  
*Smoking is the most ineffective way to use cannabis. Smoking it puts harmful substances into your body and burns alot of the medicine off. But there are many safe and powerful ways to use this plant-- as an oil under your tongue, in a capsule or tincture,  as a salve to rub on your joints or cancerous sun spots, as a powder in your bath before bed to help with insomnia, as a food or vapor for pain relief, as a juice, and much more.

Contrast that with chemotherapy, which I am currently on.  Chemo can kill cancer, and I am so grateful for that. But it also kills all my healthy cells, compromises my immune system, hurts my lungs, heart, and liver (and a host of other things), and causes me severe nausea, constipation, insomnia, mouth sores, and neuropathy.  To counter these side effects, doctors prescribe many different kinds of addictive drugs (including synthetic heroin and opiates) that cause MORE constipation, severe stomach aches, and are highly addictive.  And according my oncologist, sometimes they don’t even work.  

Think of that for one minute. We prescribe and take harmful, addictive, and deadly drugs without a second thought-- simply because they have a sticker with a doctor’s name on it and come in an expensive bottle.  And cannabis--which is not deadly, and is only as addictive as caffeine for most people, and has been a medicine since the beginning of time for every doctor or medicine man in the world-- is not available to us.  And coincidentally, cannabis helps nausea, appetite, neuropathy, insomnia, and constipation.

Cannabis has worked miracles in my life. This is why I have fought a roller coaster of a fight for its legalization in Utah. On Friday, that roller coaster took a new turn. I learned that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints opposes Senator Mark Madsen’s Medical Cannabis bill.  The official statement was... “As we have said during previous legislative sessions, there are a number of potential impacts that must be considered in any discussion about the legalization of medical marijuana, including balancing medical need with the necessity of responsible controls.  Along with others, we have expressed concern about the unintended consequences that may accompany the legalization of medical marijuana.  We have expressed opposition to Senator Madsen’s bill because of that concern.”  

For this reason I am taking a step back and will not be advocating for the bill at this time. I would like to explain why. Do I still believe in cannabis? YES. Has it blessed my life? YES. Was it right for me to take it? YES. Do I still want it to be legalized in Utah? YES.

However, I will trust the leaders of the church who feel like now is not that time or at least a little bit slower approach is necessary.

Following the prophet has not always been popular or easy. It has not always made immediate sense. But I trust it is always right. Throughout my entire journey I have made decisions others do not agree with. I have had to rely over and over on the spirit and not worry about what people thought about me, or who I was disappointing, or who I would like to please. There are many things I don’t understand about politics or policy, or how religion plays into them. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my journey with cancer, it is how to follow the spirit. That’s what I’m doing now.

I know cannabis has much to offer the medical world and strongly believe the church feels the same way.  I support those who are still fighting for the bill, but I simply have to trust that for some reason right now the Lord is asking me step back.  Maybe to test my faith; maybe to protect us from “unintended consequences” that a prophet of God sees better than I. Whatever the reason, I have learned so much.  I will continue to educate others about cannabis and pray that the appropriate time for medical cannabis in Utah comes sooner rather than later.  I am disappointed that time is not now. But I’m not worried. I’ve seen too much to doubt God knows what He’s doing.