Like many of you I read the position of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints yesterday. They stand in opposition of Proposition 2 for medical marijuana. I read their message and their concerns. They listed a 7 page “legal analysis” and concluded with a list of the different names and organizations that stand firmly with the LDS church.
I scrolled through the names and two specific organizations stood out for me since I would consider myself part of the community both groups represent -Latinos. The Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Latinos In Action were listed among those who share the perspective of the LDS church on proposition 2.
Since I respect the right for individuals to hold positions on policy that I disagree with and because I want to know where opposing views come from I reached out to these organizations to see their side of things. First I called the Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to find out why they were in opposition. I had the opportunity to speak with Alex Guzman, the president and CEO of the HCC. I told him that I had a moment to read the LDS church’s position on the medical cannabis bill and that I was surprised and somewhat disappointed that the HCC was a no on proposition 2.
I asked him why they would take that position and he told me that his organization had surveyed and questioned local businesses on how they felt about the initiative and that led to their position being a no vote -the businesses were not in support of it.
Guzman was polite on the phone and listened to why I was a yes vote. I told him that first and foremost this is not a recreational bill, that I was moved at how people suffering from illnesses -some of them children- had swayed me in the direction of my affirmation vote. He listened, and he gave me his email address to send him more information and told me he’d give it more thought and even share my comments -I assume with other members of the HCC. Guzman also told me that if I knew of other people who felt like I did, to please have them email him as well with their thoughts. If you’re interested in doing so you can send him a message at Alex.Guzman@utahhcc.com.
My call to Latinos In Action was the exact opposite and left me in absolute disbelief.
I spoke with Jose E Enriquez the founder and CEO of the organization. As I did with the HCC I asked him why his organization would be against the initiative. He went on to tell me that LIA would not support the initiative because they are in staunch opposition of recreational use and that their primary concern was youth safety. When I informed him that this was a medical initiative, he informed me that they were under the impression that this was an attempt at a recreational law.
That led me to ask if he had read the intentions of the initiative in its entirety. He told me that someone in his organization read it but that he would have to re-read it. After he explained to me that he had seen what marijuana does to the youth when he lived in Los Angeles I asked him if he would have a change of heart if this was regulated by having medical cards issued by the Utah Department of Health -which the initiative calls for. He said that he would have to re-read the bill.
During our discussion I told him that I was very interested in following up with him and seeing if there was room for dialog. He wasn’t pleased with my insinuation that a follow up would be appropriate after he had had a moment to read the proposal. Since he thought it was for recreation and not medical reasons I felt that there was, but he insisted it wasn’t necessary.
Now it seems a bit unbelievable to me that an organization that has some level of representation of Latinos would decide on not supporting a medical marijuana initiative because they felt it was a recreational use initiative. It worried me because the title after all is “Utah Proposition 2, Medical Marijuana Initiative”. The title gives a clear indicator that this is not a push for recreation and eliminates ambiguity on what it’s trying to do. You could argue the language in the initiative, even debate the efficiency of it, but there’s no mistaking the purpose of it for recreational use.
In speaking with Enriquez I asked him if he could see how I would be concerned as a member of the Latino community when a nonprofit such as Latinos In Action stamps opposition to an initiative it doesn’t fully understand and how it looks from the perspective of those who are inside the community that LIA supposedly represents. He told me that it’s not my business to explain to him on how he should read the bill and that he doesn’t represent me or Latinos directly and restated that he was concerned with the safety of the youth.
As the conversation started to devolve I decided to thank Enriquez for his time and ended the call -not before asking him one more time to please read the details of the initiative.
After I got off the phone I was left thinking, if Latinos In Action doesn’t represent me as a Latino man, if they don’t represent Latinos in general then who do they represent? If they don’t represent people like me or people who look like me, then why wouldn’t they call themselves something like People In Action or Citizens In Action and leave the word Latino out of it?
Proposition 2 was not written by the producers of Cheech and Chong movies, it was written up by the Utah Patients Coalition. If you go to their about page they state the following, “Utah Patients Coalition (UPC) is leading a 2018 ballot initiative campaign to establish a medical cannabis program for sick and suffering Utahns. We are a collation of patients, caretakers, and advocates.”
Does that sound like a group of people who want to place the youth in harms way?
I’m not a member of UPC, I don’t sit on a board for UPC, but I can read. I’ve read through the provisions on what they’re trying to do and there is no mistaking that this is not an attempt at passing a recreational law for marijuana. Again, I know this because I can read. I took the time to look through it, I didn’t rubber stamp someone’s position without taking a moment to look at the facts and then form an opinion based off those facts.
I’m convinced that Latinos In Action did not take the time fully to understand what the initiative is about because the initiative was not read or it was not given the attention in reading it deserves. Mr. Jose Enriquez is an educated man. He’s a good man, I’m sure of it. I looked through his group’s website and I’ve no doubt that he cares about the youth -otherwise he wouldn’t be involved in the work his organization is doing.
But he must read what proposition 2 does, and whether he admits it or not, his organization represents Latinos so when he says that Latinos In Action are in opposition of a medical marijuana initiative because he cannot support a recreational law, he’s deciding on a misleading premise. I urge him to sit down, read the initiative, reach out to UPC, ask questions, see where he can find common ground and where he must depart from the realm of agreement.
This initiative deserves his full attention and if there were other groups who signed on to opposing this initiative without fully understanding what it does, they also have a responsibility to read the initiative in it’s entirety and make informed decisions based on the facts.
This however, will require reading.