Patients, DA urge change to Utah's marijuana policy

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) - Medical marijuana advocates got a little help in their fight for legal medical marijuana by Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill Wednesday morning inside the Utah State Capitol.
 
Those who were present today openly admitted to violating Utah's marijuana laws, and they along with the DA are urging the legislature to make a change to the current policy. 
 
"I'm a patient, not a criminal, I have a genetic condition," says Enedina Stanger who suffers from Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.  
 
Standing against a backdrop looking like something out of a police lineup, many people suffering from chronic pain, Crohn's Disease, PTSD, and other medical conditions held up signs, which read "I'm a patient, not a criminal," as they add their face to the fight for legal medical marijuana in Utah.
 
"I'm on 13 pills everyday of Morphine and Oxycodone, and really heavy strong pills, and I have been in Oregon using the oil.  I don't have to use any of them, and I feel good and I can get up and play with my kids,"  said Kelli Hessheimer.
 
A few months ago Hessheimer was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer that metastasized throughout her body.  She says chemo and other treatments weren't working, and is strongly advocating to pass a legal medical marijuana law in Utah.
 
She, like many others grow fearful of being prosecuted for using a drug that helps with their condition.  She says she fears going to jail or having her kids taken away because she uses cannabis for her illness, much like Stanger who was arrested because she used medical marijuana for her genetic disorder.  Like Hessheimer, Stanger has also fled Utah but, for Colorado, where medical marijuana is legal. 
 
Those present today say their condition and request for a drug shouldn't categorize them as criminals.
 
"These are not the faces of criminals," he said, "these are not the people that I want to be prosecuting," he added.
 
Gill blames a failed drug policy on the criminalization of medical marijuana, and urges the state legislature to present solutions to help keep him from having to prosecute individuals like these.
 
As the DA he says he has had to prosecute cases like these because he is obligated to press charges, but he says his office will use its discretion to work a plea that is more lenient. 
 
"We want to hold people that are a risk to our community accountable.  I just don't want to hold people accountable because we dislike or because we have an antiquated view of what criminals justice is suppose to be," Gill said.
 
"Our goal is not a recreational program," said Alicia Sperry whose son was diagnosed with a brain tumor back in September, 2015.  "We definitely love the idea of having it regulated, a medical marijuana program like Senator Madsen's bill would allow," she adds.
 
Madsen's bill will be one of two medical marijuana bills up for discussion this legislative session.  His bill would allow qualifying individuals registering with the Department of Health the opportunity to use certain cannabis products which would be given out by a specialist.  The other bill being considered is Daw-Vicker's bill.

Proponents of Madsen's bill ask that people do their research surrounding medical marijuana and to do away with the stigma that surrounds marijuana.  They hope the legislature will hear their cries for help and that these bills will bring about change to the current policy.   
 

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