On the EDge: Huntsman’s stand against reefer madness

OPINION – Anti-medical-cannabis forces received a bruising jolt last week when Jon Huntsman Sr. came out in favor of legalization of the herb for compassionate use.

“If medical marijuana was known by another name, it would have been utilized as a pain medication many years ago,” Huntsman said in a statement released to the Deseret News last week. “From national research and understanding, the side effects of medical marijuana are considerably less than virtually all opioids and therefore less destructive to the body.”

During an interview with a KSTU reporter Huntsman said that although he would “love to” try medical cannabis, he hasn’t done so yet. He also said he would rather “take the pain” than use opioids, which “haven’t done the job.”

Read more: Jon Huntsman Sr. speaks in favor of medical marijuana

Listen, this isn’t some scruffy hippie getting baked in the parking lot of a Grateful Dead concert.

Jon Huntsman Sr. is one of the most respected entrepreneurs in the world market.

He is a longtime Republican Party stalwart who once worked for the Nixon administration as associate administrator of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare and later served as special assistant and staff secretary to President Nixon. He resigned in disgust when he later learned of Nixon’s backdoor dealings and that the former president did not give one nickel to charity during his tenure in the White House.

He served as chairman for Utah in Ronald Reagan‘s presidential campaign in 1984 and George H. W. Bush‘s campaigns in 1988 and 1992.

His credentials as a Republican are impeccable.

But, there is more to Huntsman than political prowess.

He built the Huntsman Corporation from the ground up, beginning by making egg containers and those clamshell boxes once used to package Big Mac sandwiches. The company has since quit manufacturing the containers for environmental reasons, yet expanded to become one of the largest chemical corporations in the world with strident efforts to go as green as possible in its daily operations. Whether you know it or not, you use products manufactured by Huntsman every time you turn the key to your car or slip into a pair of Nike running shoes.

But, there is more to Huntsman than business acumen.

In 1993, he founded the Huntsman Cancer Institute with $10 million in seed money. Since then, he has fed HCI with $700 million in donations. At one time, he gave HCI as much in funding for one year as the American Cancer Society gave its worldwide network of cancer researchers.

He knows politics, he knows science, he knows business, but most importantly, he knows pain.

You see, he is a four-time cancer survivor and he fights a daily battle with chronic pain, being diagnosed 10 years ago with an inflammatory disease called polymyalgia rheumatica.

Like so many of us who have been diagnosed with diseases for which there are no cure that result in daily pain levels that challenge the human threshold, Huntsman understands what this compassionate use business is all about. And, like so many of us, he has been given the bad news by doctors and pain management experts that the only thing they can offer him is medication to treat the inflammation and pain.

And, that means, in today’s medical mentality, feeding the patient an endless diet of opioids and other drugs that have a deleterious impact on the body.

Huntsman understands the dangers associated with opioids, from the addiction pitfalls to the physical, mental and emotional side effects, and he’s having none of it.

He understands that living a life based around when to take your next pain med is hardly living, that functionality is part of a productive, happy and successful life, that there is this thing called building up a tolerance to the drugs that requires you take more and more of them over time to relieve your pain, which means you are more and more likely to develop dangerous side effects.

No, Jon Huntsman Sr. is not some dirty old hippie looking for a cheap and legal high.

He is an 80-year-old man from Blackfoot, Idaho, who has worked his way to the heights of capitalism, has earned his conservative stripes over the years, has held important positions in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and he has earned respect as one of the most philanthropic humans to grace the Earth.

Politically speaking, we’re two trains running in opposite directions on the track. But that’s OK. In fact, though, he is bucking the current Republican administration in this matter, which takes courage despite his vast wealth.

He is also standing against his church, which is opposed to a 2018 ballot initiative to legalize medical cannabis in Utah that would benefit patients suffering from cancer, Lou Gehrig’s disease, multiple sclerosis, HIV, post-traumatic stress disorder, Alzheimer’s disease, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and chronic pain.

The LDS church has vehemently stood against recreational cannabis legalization in states that have approved such measures and it used its influence to quash a bill brought before the Utah Legislature to open the doors to medical cannabis in Utah. How much influence Huntsman will carry in persuading voters to support the new initiative remains to be seen, but his is an important voice, one tempered by science and soaked in the effort to provide compassionate care for those suffering from a variety of illnesses.

“Jon Huntsman Sr. has been a pioneer in advocacy and philanthropy for patient care, so it’s no surprise to us that he supports medical cannabis as another treatment option for physicians and patients,” D.J. Schanz, co-director of the Utah Patients Coalition, which submitted the medical cannabis ballot initiative application last month, said in a prepared statement. “Like so many other patients, he recognizes the dangers of opiates and wants an alternative. We appreciate his public support and look forward to giving Utah voters a chance to decide in 2018.”

We have solid, copious research into the efficacy of cannabis as an analgesic and, in a surprising number of instances, anticonvulsant, curative substance.

Our neighbors to the north and south understand this, which is why Canada is on the eve of complete legalization – medicinal and recreational – and Mexico just legalized cannabis nationwide for medicinal purposes.

Medicinal cannabis is legal in Australia, Colombia, Croatia, Germany, Israel, Italy, Macedonia, the Philippines, Poland and Turkey.

In the United States, 29 states – plus the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico – have legalized cannabis for medicinal purposes despite the long-held stigma and hysteria created by uninformed politicians and religious zealots.

It’s time for Utah, and the federal government, to get over its ridiculous “Reefer Madness” mentality.

If a billionaire, 80-year-old conservative can, so can you.

No bad days!

Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist for St. George News. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews, @EdKociela

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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  • desertgirl July 18, 2017 at 7:42 am

    Hear! Hear!

    • bewildered July 18, 2017 at 2:24 pm

      I do not understand why in 2017 people still do not get it. WAKE UP. How many more will die in Utah before the Church says enough. I thought that we the people have freedom of choice. Not in Utah. My step son died of a drug overdose at the age of 20 from opioids NOTcannibis! I can name 10 more. When will Utah stop the crap and make it legal. Both my Husband and myself have major health issues. My doctor hands me a script for 60 pills a month. You know where we go for help? Mesquite.

  • desertgirl July 18, 2017 at 7:49 am

    Let’s not forget the Obama administration and Democrat Party held government did nothing to change laws and attitudes regarding this issue. This is not the direct responsibility of Republicans. Washington swamp hasn’t made a significant change in our lives except for raising our taxes and then foolishly spending much of it. This includes immigration laws; every administration and congress has shirked it’s responsibility and passed the proverbial buck. Time for libertarian common sense and respect for the United States Constitution to prevail.

    • Chris July 18, 2017 at 9:27 am

      ” Obama administration and Democrat Party held government did nothing to change laws and attitudes regarding this issue” Wrong as usual. The Obama administration expressly changed Justice Department policy to de-emphasized drug prosecutions. That policy has now been revoked by the Trump administration. Furthermore, Obama issued many pardons to drug felons to relieve overcrowding in federal prisons. Trump wants to do the opposite.

    • Pheo July 18, 2017 at 2:31 pm

      Will someone please explain the childish need for conservatives to call the Democratic Party the “Democrat Party”? Is there a joke I’m missing?

  • NotSoFast July 18, 2017 at 7:51 am

    I’m getting the munchies already.

  • LocalTourist July 18, 2017 at 8:23 am

    Thank you, Ed. Thank you for being a voice of reason in a sea of madness in Dixie. So many seniors in Washington County could find relief from various maladies with medical cannabis.
    Decades ago we were sold a bill of goods about the dangers of cannabis. Our government lied to us about it, and continues to do so. People that fear this sill plant need to learn how to Google, and search for their own answers. That’s what I did. I also found a pro-cannabis group named TRUCE, Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education. I haven’t gotten lies from those people like I did from my government.
    If you would’ve come to me ten years ago to talk about cannabis as a medicine, I’d kick your butt off my porch. My tune has changed as I watch friends and loved ones suffer.. and yes, die…. when they are abandoned by mainstream medicine.
    It’s time the government got out of my medicine cabinet. Our state touts itself as a home for lovers of freedom and free agency. Let it be so.

  • Chris July 18, 2017 at 9:29 am

    We should be hearing from “nanny-state” Brian any minute now to tout the evils of marijuana and to promote government interference in our private lives.

  • DRT July 18, 2017 at 10:01 am

    It’s my most sincere hope that the LDS Church will eventually get over there unfounded bias against medicinal marijuana.
    However, I have a feeling that it will never happen in our lifetime.
    The ignorance and fear that the majority of our Utah population have of “drugs” has been fed by both the church and the government for too many generations. The very same people that abuse opioids, with prescriptions from their doctors, will rant about the “dangers” of any use of marijuana! They have been so thoroughly brainwashed by years of bogus propaganda that they’ve made up their minds, without having the facts to back up their beliefs.
    Also, when you have the federal government keeping all marijuana use illegal, it backs up this unfounded belief.
    People just don’t realize that any change in marijuana laws are going to be fought tooth and toenail by two very powerful groups. The first group is the people who are making themselves rich by selling drugs on the black market.
    The second group is the government. This group is also broken down into two subgroups. The politicians who are in the pockets of the cartels, and law enforcement.
    Obviously the politicians in this group have a vested interest in keeping the laws as they are. As long as the payoffs keep coming in, they are happy.
    Law enforcement also has two major vested interests in leaving the laws as they are. First and most obvious, are the asset forfeiture laws. Agencies get a tremendous amount of money, not to mention equipment, from the proceeds of asset forfeiture. The second, and less obvious reason is the number of careers made by current law.
    Many high ranking law enforcement people, from the local cops, to the prosecuting attorneys, to the state and federal law enforcement, would not be where they are today, without these draconian drug laws.

    • tyger13us July 18, 2017 at 10:26 pm

      SR,, MAM,,,,,
      there is SUPPOSE to be deviation between church and state?
      SO why is it you can only become a member in the state legislature? if your a member of the church.
      Cause if you AINT,, ya aint gettin elected,, the chirch sayas so……….
      in that redneck voice……..
      if your on the inside looking out it all looks ROSEY.
      if your on the out side looking in? you have no chance………..
      just plain simple facts………..
      John Huntsman Jr seen this…
      best governor this state has ever seen……..
      but the church dint like it so we got Gary Herbert….
      and ive been around way to long to really KNOW who Oran hatch is. i know his kids… went to school with um,, way down yander in cedar city………….

  • theone July 18, 2017 at 10:03 am

    I think we should load up a couple of bongs with top notch weed, place it on the round table where the church’s quorum of 12 hang out and see if they have a miracle revelation for the use of their gods premium pain killer.

    • tyger13us July 18, 2017 at 10:39 pm

      im thinking your right………..
      Oh AND im a VAPOR which the state has tryed to ban……..
      havent smoked in 7 years……….
      but vape supplys are short,,,,,,,,,
      so i will just go BACK TO SMOKING…….
      god for bid,, the state dont want to hear that..
      but it dont bother them,, because they get there sin tax………………

  • ladybugavenger July 18, 2017 at 10:15 am

    If your argument is that marijuana should not be legal because people get high than I assume your stance is that opioids should be illegal too, because people get high on pain meds. If your argument is that marijuana is a gateway drug than I assume that your argument is that opioids are a gateway drug to heroin.

    If your argument is one sided and only against marijuana then sit down, your point is invalid and legalize marijuana.

    • ladybugavenger July 18, 2017 at 10:17 am

      Am I too soon to reply to Brian lol

      • DRT July 18, 2017 at 12:16 pm

        I’m really glad you added this reply! I was beginning to think that either I was going blind, or losing my mind, or both. 🙂

  • great success July 18, 2017 at 11:06 am

    Huntsman’s position is probably hard to digest for the local team! Good for him for challenging local beliefs.

    Hashish and

  • Henry July 18, 2017 at 6:42 pm

    Well done Ed Kociela, for penning your best op-ed that I recall reading. Heavy on the facts, light on the spin/innuendo.

    Try as they might, the LDS church won’t be able to suppress the effects of the figurative wave of marijuana legalization (medicinal and/or recreational) in adjoining states. Citizens in St George just drive the half hour to Mesquite to get their weed, the same route they’ve been driving for their cheaper alcohol. I imagine that Salt Lake Citians are acting similarly and driving to Elko or Wendover.

    State-run liquor stores bring in good revenue for Utah. Perhaps someday, Utah politicians will see a potential new tax source and allow state-run marijuana stores. They seem to be good at repressing their moral standards when enough money is involved. 🙂

  • tyger13us July 18, 2017 at 9:03 pm

    If the church wants to CONTROL there members? fine with me……….
    im not a MEMBER and tired of being controlled by there standards,,, hey,, what ever floats your boat….
    im an adult way,, way over 30 twice,, and the church still rains over me,, because i happen to live here….
    ive lived in this state for over 50 years,, yes SOME things they do have to do with old fashioned Values……
    But OMG,, any more,, i feel like i live in a prison state with bob wire keeping me penned in…….
    jack down the street seen ya come in @ 3 am? who’s damn business is it of yours?
    he had company from and other state? yea so family,, check it out……………
    and if they know your full name they will do a complete background search on you,, just to know your busyness,, but claiming it makes them feel safe? i call bs……….
    im sure most of you under stand my delema…….
    i know many many people that have left the state for the east coast and feel like a ton of bricks lifted off the chest………..
    You all know what i mean,, and the ones that dont must like spending time in the nanny state……….
    my final statement………
    If you were minding your own busyness you wouldn’t be minding mine………..

  • utahdiablo July 18, 2017 at 9:10 pm

    You need Pot? Drive to Mesquite, Colorado, Wendover, or many other places across the state lines…. buy it and use it behind closed doors…..keep the damn Weed out of Utah as you already can’t drive right sober

    • tyger13us July 18, 2017 at 9:49 pm

      No dude,,,,,, i will sell ALL my land,,,,,,, or just let it go for taxes out the … and load up what i have left and go to someplace else…….
      this place is sooooo depressing……..
      i cant even get my medical needs here….
      like an apt to a doctor?……….
      to many in the front of the line………
      its ok… there loss……….
      and i have gone far and WIDE….
      face book,, twitter,, email,, even craigs list……….
      BAN UTAH……….
      word travels fast…………..
      to bad the,, others of this state dont get it………….
      there responce is? We dont need your kind here”
      Reall? guess ya dont need skiers? rtvers,, 4x4er.. out doors people,, since utah dont offer much more than that?
      TAXES GO UP? BLACK vans patroling the roads?
      randome check points,,,,,,,,,,,,
      Papers please,, let me check your papers?
      license plate light out,, instant bust,, make sure BOTH of um work,, so if 1 goes out they wont horrass ya for it……
      trust me ive lived her for a very long time and sick of it..
      i dont do NOTHING but im always a suspect……….

      like i said before,,, if you were minding your own busyness your would be minding mine……….
      and im not a member ether………..

  • Kimi July 19, 2017 at 5:48 am

    is a great book on the failure of the war on drugs and how other countries successfully deal with drug issues. RECOMMEND!

  • commonsense July 19, 2017 at 7:10 am

    Marijuana doesn’t cure anything. It makes you feel groovy. It depletes your dopamine levels. It’s addictive. It impairs some motor skills. It dumbs down your incentive to work. It impairs learning.
    I guess if you are dying of cancer and it makes your life seem tolerable then sure go ahead and use whatever you like.

    Ed, “life based around when you take your next pain pill” is that any different than life based around smoking your next doobie?

    Look, Marijuana use is based on escape from reality, getting high and feeling like someone else.
    I’m not going to put anything in my lungs and I like the way I feel. It’s me and I earned it.

    It’s very interesting that Jon Huntsman, avowed capitalist and business tycoon is now the hero of pathetic underachiever potheads and druggies.

    • ladybugavenger July 19, 2017 at 8:06 am

      Did I miss the articles about marijuana curing something? I haven’t heard that it’s a cure for anything.

      Pain pills make me feel sick, nauseous. dizzy, and yucky! I certainly hope that I don’t need anything stronger than ibuprofen for a while.

      People take pain pills to be able to work. They have a bad back, bad knees, bad shoulders, and can’t take time of work to get that surgery. Most are self employed construction workers here and Most are on pain pills to continue working. I’m not sure that marijuana would help back pain, knee pain, torn rotator cup etc. And then there are the addicts (usually starts from being prescribed pain pills for an injury and once injury is healed they continue using pain pills) As for marijuana, just because I can legally smoke it in Vegas, doesn’t mean I will. Nope, don’t think I’d like it all. I think I would get nauseous and paranoid.
      But because it’s not my choice doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be legal. I think it should be legal, however, with every government run business there is corruption. I wouldn’t count on the high marijuana tax and large revenue actually being used for anything good. I don’t think you’ll notice a good difference or price of anything going down and non marijuana buyers taxes will still go up.

      I’d like to see the resources used to arrest marijuana people be used to arrest corrupt government officials (there are so many)

      • ladybugavenger July 19, 2017 at 8:11 am

        As for addiction of marijuana- there are so many things people can be addicted too- work, sex, shopping, collecting things, etc that it’s all a matter of the heart. One must know thyself. Only God can heal a heart.

        • ladybugavenger July 20, 2017 at 4:37 pm

          And the most popular addiction: caffeine. That withdrawal will make you feel like your dying, but you’re not. Watch out for the headache ?

  • commonsense July 19, 2017 at 6:16 pm

    Just because addiction occurs, doesn’t mean society should sanction the use of a product that decreases productivity and causes impairment. Medical professionals prescribing for terminal disease to relieve suffering is one thing but making another substance available for recreational use is quite different.

    Hey, Ladybug do you really have construction workers on pain pills. Now that”s scary.

    • ladybugavenger July 20, 2017 at 4:54 pm

      Just one at my house lol. Shoot, I’m getting hardi siding put on and that stuff is heavy and will hurt you. But I work at lowes and contractors come in and I’ve overheard a few talking. Oh and I had a person here a few months ago laying some flooring, and my husband asked him what do you keep taking? He said, pain pill, my back is jacked up.(I don’t remember which pill it was)

      They are very hard workers and I get compliments on my floor and even tho siding isn’t done- I get compliments on that too.

      No one would ever know they were taking a pain pill unless they told you. Same with the contractors at work, you can’t tell who does or doesn’t take a pain pill…….and then theres the tweekers lol that’s s whole other breed

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