Latest Updates RSS Feed or subscribe via email

This bill passed the Senate 23-5 and passed the House 65-10. It was subsequently signed into law by Governor Herbert.

Libertas Institute opposes this bill.

Following negotiations between legislators, LDS Church leaders, and LGBT activists, new legislation has been introduced to purportedly “balance” competing interests and craft a bill that will allow all sides to allegedly get a little of what they want. Senate Bill 296, sponsored by Senator Steve Urquhart, offers a consensus bill that is nevertheless fundamentally violative of property rights and the freedom of association.

Conservatives have unwisely framed their opposition to “gay rights” on religious grounds, but religious liberty is merely a subset of the right to own and control property, and the right to associate—or disassociate—with people of one’s own choosing. Religious liberty would not exist were it not for this foundation. This bill aims to prohibit landlords and employers from discriminating against a person due to their sexual orientation or gender identity, which is defined as being provable through “medical history, care or treatment of the gender identity,” or “other evidence that the gender identity is sincerely held, part of a person’s core identity, and not being asserted for an improper purpose.”

Read more »

The following op-ed was published this weekend in the Salt Lake Tribune.

In 1915 — 100 years ago — the Utah Legislature passed an omnibus narcotics bill that banned a lengthy list of substances including cocaine, heroin, novocaine, morphine, as well as “loco weed,” the common term in that era for cannabis. At the same time, the law legalized possession, use, or sales of these substances “upon the written order or prescription of a physician.”

Even at the dawn of drug prohibition in the Beehive State, it was recognized that the medicinal value of these substances merited their legal use under a doctor’s supervision. While this recognition changed over time as it relates to cannabis, Utah now has an opportunity to reverse course and once again allow suffering patients to access the significant medical benefits of this plant.

Sen. Mark Madsen is one of the state’s most conservative legislators, and is sponsoring Senate Bill 259 to create a medical cannabis program in Utah. In doing so, he’s appealing to fellow conservatives on the need for compassionate care and the freedom to choose.

Read more »

Tuesday, March 3, 2015 | 2 comments

Healthy Utah in a Nutshell

Healthy Utah in a Nutshell | Libertas Institute Cartoon

Governor Herbert’s Medicaid expansion proposal, nicknamed “Healthy Utah,” perpetuates an ever-increasing cycle of debt and borrowing to finance expanding welfare programs. This is neither conservative nor fiscally prudent.

Libertas Institute has made an effort to debunk a few popular myths that have percolated during the debate, and continues to oppose growing government and requiring taxpayers to increasingly subsidize the lives of others.

This poll of 400 likely voters was conducted Feb 26-28, 2015 and carries a +- 4.9 percentage points margin of error. Live callers conducted the interviews over both landline phones and cell phones. It was jointly sponsored by Libertas Institute and Drug Policy Project of Utah, and conducted by Y2 Analytics.

Click here for the topline results and to see further detail.

1. Should doctors who specialize in treating serious illnesses like cancer, epilepsy, and Alzheimer’s be allowed to recommend cannabis, sometimes referred to as marijuana, as a treatment for their patients with serious medical conditions, or not?

Subgroup breakout: results below shown by self-described partisan identification.

Subgroup breakout: results below shown by age group.

Subgroup breakout: results below shown by affiliation with the LDS Church.

2. Tell me whether you agree or disagree with the statement: People with serious illnesses should be punished under Utah state law for using cannabis to treat their condition.

3. Tell me whether you agree or disagree with the statement: Cannabis is more dangerous than drugs like cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine.

Editor’s note: the federal government’s current classification of drugs ranks cannabis as being more dangerous than cocaine and methamphetamine, and equal in danger to heroin.

4. Tell me whether you agree or disagree with the statement: It should be legal for people with terminal illnesses to use drugs recommended by their doctor but that have not been approved by the FDA.

Editor’s note: this question relates to “Right to Try” legislation receiving near-unanimous support from the Utah legislature.

This bill failed in the Senate on a 14-15 vote.

Libertas Institute supports this bill.

In 1915, 100 years ago, the Utah legislature banned a wide range of drugs, including cannabis. At the same time, the law specifically legalized possession, use, or sales of these substances “upon the written order or prescription of a physician.”

With respect to cannabis that medical option was rescinded—but one conservative lawmaker wants to go back to the way things were. Senator Mark Madsen has introduced Senate Bill 259 to legalize medical cannabis in the state, along with an industry that can provide products to patients looking for relief, treatment, or potentially even cures to their medical conditions. An example of two people who can benefit from this new law was published in an exclusive interview by Libertas Institute last week.

This bill would enact a number of provisions relating to the production, use, and sale of cannabis, including the following:

  • Licenses would be issued to medical cannabis growing facilities, production facilities, and dispensaries to legally conduct business in selling cannabis to individuals with permits to purchase it.
  • Individuals who suffer from a qualifying illness, and whose licensed physician provides a signed statement indicating that the individual suffers from the illness and may benefit from treatment with cannabis, will be able to legally obtain and use cannabis.
  • The cannabis can be orally ingested, vaporized, or topically applied; it may not be combusted/smoked.
  • Individuals will be limited in how much cannabis they can purchase within any given time period.
  • No more than one dispensary will be allowed in each county, except for counties with more than 200,000 residents, in which case one dispensary per 200,000 residents will be allowed.
  • Child-resistant packaging and clear labeling will be required of all products sold.
  • Detailed tracking will be required to monitor seed-to-sale so as to minimize abuse or wrongful access.
  • Signage, marketing, and access in any way appealing to or accessible by minors will be prohibited.
  • A security plan will be required for licensed cannabis-related facilities, access will be limited, inspections will be allowed to ensure compliance, and other provisions are included to minimize any other problems.

Cannabis is clearly safer than alternative legal substances—even more so than previously thought. A legislature that is almost unanimously supporting “Right to Try” legislation, which would allow terminal patients to access potentially life-saving medication not yet approved by the FDA, should likewise pass this law—do we really want to wait until people are at death’s door before the government steps back ever so slightly?

This bill is about the freedom to choose—allowing a patient and their doctor to determine if the medicinal properties of cannabis might help alleviate, treat, or cure their condition. Speculative concerns about potential misuse of this product does not justify its outright prohibition. We encourage full support of this important legislation.

This bill was not considered by the legislature.

Libertas Institute supports this bill.

Libertas Institute spent hundreds of man hours over the past year working on a comprehensive proposal for the use of body cameras in Utah. This effort, in conjunction with community partners and civil liberties allies like the Utah chapter of ACLU and the Utah Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, has culminated in House Bill 386, sponsored by Representative Dan McCay.

This bill would set statewide minimum standards for the use of body cameras in Utah protecting the rights of all Utahns and providing predictability in the use of police body cameras.

Read more »

Editor’s note: Christine and Tenille are two of the new faces of Utahns seeking increased access to medicinal cannabis in Utah, following last year’s law that narrowly opened up access to a limited group of people.

Senator Mark Madsen is working on legislation, not yet made public, to expand access to Utahns with other conditions who can benefit from medicinal cannabis.  The comments in this interview do not necessarily reflect the views of Libertas Institute. 

Christine, left, with Tenille and her infant son

Libertas Institute: Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

Tenille Farr: I grew up in a small farm town in Idaho and am the fifth of nine children. I graduated from BYU, served a mission for the LDS Church, and my husband and I have five sons who I stay at home with.

Christine Stenquist: I’m originally from Miami, Florida, and have lived in Utah for 23 years now. I’m married and have four children.

LI: Both of you have an experience dealing with cannabis that is changing people’s minds. Can you share what happened to you?

Tenille: Until five months ago, I didn’t know what cannabis was. I had heard about marijuana and believed that people smoked it as a drug. But I was diagnosed five months ago with stage 2 Hodgkin Lymphoma cancer in my neck and chest. I was 18 weeks pregnant when I discovered it. I went to the Huntsman Cancer Institute for a series of tests, and because I was pregnant, chemotherapy wasn’t an option for me.

We began to research alternative treatments and put a lot of prayer into our search. We found a friend who had had cancer just like me, when she was pregnant, and she introduced me to a variety of people whose lives had been changed—their ailments big and small healed—because of using cannabis.

Read more »

This bill passed the House 71-1 and passed the Senate unanimously. It was subsequently signed into law by Governor Herbert.

Libertas Institute supports this bill.

See below for an update.

Utah law allows the Division of Child and Family Services to take a child away from his or her parents or guardians in a variety of situations, including upon an allegation of neglect or abuse. As currently written, the law contains broad and permissive authorities that provide the division with latitude to intervene, place a child into foster care, and even terminate the rights of the parent, placing the child for adoption.

As with any broad authority, this can be—and has been—abused in the past. Utahns will likely recall the story of Parker Jensen, who at the young age of 13 was diagnosed by a doctor with a cancer called ewing sacrcoma. His parents disagreed with the diagnosis and sought a separate diagnosis but the state, led by Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, repeatedly and aggressively intervened to frustrate the family’s efforts—and attempted to force young Parker to undergo the prescribed treatment. The state finally backed down in the court room, and ten years later, Parker is cancer-free, married, and is now a father—a significant fact since had he been forcibly subjected to chemotherapy by the state, he may likely have been sterilized.

Read more »

This bill passed both chambers of the legislature unanimously and was signed into law by Governor Herbert.

Libertas Institute supports this bill.

A 2001 U.S. Supreme Court case, Kylio v. U.S., addressed the use of thermal imaging devices by law enforcement officials, and the ruling held that such devices could not be used without a warrant as they constituted a search.

“Where… the government uses a device that is not in general public use, to explore details of a private home that would previously have been unknowable without physical intrusion, the surveillance is a Fourth Amendment ‘search,’ and is presumptively unreasonable without a warrant,” the majority opinion reads.

Interestingly, the ruling anticipated the development of more refined technology and held that the court “must take account of more sophisticated systems that are already in use or in development,” referring to radar technology that would be far more detailed than blurry thermal images, which would “enable law officers to detect individuals through interior building walls.”

Read more »

This bill passed the House 72-3 and passed the Senate unanimously. It was subsequently signed into law by Governor Herbert.

Libertas Institute supports this bill.

Following town hall meetings, research, and significant deliberation, the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice (CCJJ) offered a series of evidence-based recommendations to the legislature. Representative Eric Hutchings has sponsored House Bill 348 to attempt to enact the recommendations into law.

The reforms are intended to make criminal justice “smarter” in Utah, keeping people out of prison who don’t need to be there—saving taxpayers some half a billion dollars over the next 20 years by not needing to incarcerate more people. Lowering the penalty for drug possession is one of the recommendations that has received significant attention. Other proposals include:

Read more »