States have been passing medical cannabis laws at an unprecedented rate in recent years. Currently, 47 states now recognize the legitimacy of cannabis as medicine. Thirty-four states and the District of Columbia have passed some form of comprehensive medical cannabis legislation, and 13 others have enacted more restrictive -CBD-only laws.
Here in Utah, against the odds, we have seen tremendous growth in support for medical cannabis, with professional statewide polls reaching above 70% in the run-up to legalization, which is in line with nationwide averages. With the majority consensus viewing cannabis with a different tone and temperament we find the need for education on the topic being sought. When the Utah State Legislature again rejected any form of comprehensive medical cannabis legislation in 2017 and 2018, TRUCE knew it was time to take it to the people.
Utah’s chronic and terminally ill patients have been begging for safe access to medical cannabis for years, and now that it is on the ballot for November 2018, they are under attack by their own elected representatives, the Utah Medical Association, local political lobbying groups and DEA task forces. Patients must make their voices heard this summer and fall 2018 in order to counter the attacks.
TRUCE is 501(c)3 non-profit organization of patients who educate the public and Utah state legislators in an effort to achieve a dignified and safe medical cannabis program. TRUCE was founded by Christine Stenquist, a brain tumor patient and mother turned political activist, on the belief that patients should have a voice in state-level medical cannabis policy in Utah and the knowledge that legal access to cannabis should be considered a human right. Stenquist built the patient movement that generated the political momentum that landed medical cannabis on the 2018 midterm election ballot in Utah.
The name TRUCE is no accident. When the organization was formed, the general feeling was that there must be a truce between patients and those with viewpoints in opposition to safe access. The acronym was formed to remind ourselves and others to call a truce to party lines, religious affiliations and differing opinions to find a place where dialogue and education can and do happen. Today we are the most trusted educational resource regarding policy, science, and advocacy efforts in Utah as well as the defacto voice of the patient community in this legislative process.
Click a title to read more about the history of TRUCE …
Our mission is to educate the community and stakeholders about the benefits of medicinal cannabis as a tool for minimizing patient suffering and as a legitimate alternative to opioids. We focus on the history, policy, science, and patient perspective. We believe that emphasizing these four pillars in our efforts to educate community leaders, stakeholders, and citizens, is the best way to bring a viable and responsible cannabis program to Utah.
Since TRUCE started, support for medical cannabis has increased 26% in Utah
• In 2014 just 51% of Utahns were in support of medical cannabis
• By early 2015, polls conducted for S.B. 259 reached 66%
• In June 2017, support for medical cannabis in Utah reached 73%
• By March 2018, support reached 77%
The increase in support over the last four years of our efforts to educate the public have created critical mass as the issue heads to the ballot. Here is a brief timeline of how we got here:
2014: Initial Legislative Efforts
Stenquist began her political lobbying efforts on Utah’s Capitol Hill in Salt Lake City as a volunteer for the Coalition of Religious Communities (CORC). In 2014, when she learned Utah would be the first state to pass “CBD-only” medical cannabis legislation, she began to work diligently to educate Utah legislators about the potential “unintended consequences” such legislation would have on the desperate patient community who had been (and still are) leaving Utah in order to legally treat their conditions with cannabis.
Utah became the first state to pass CBD-only legislation. Known as Charlee’s Law, the legislation allows patients with intractable epilepsy who have exhausted at least three potentially deadly pharmaceutical alternatives to obtain a hemp registration card from the state and use CBD extracts to treat their condition. Patients and their families still have to break federal law to procure cannabis oil from other states.
Shortly after the passage of this law, Stenquist met with the parties involved in this effort to see what could be accomplished for the following year for the patients that were left out. She learned that the mothers of the epileptic children the law was passed for had agreed not to push for more access. Stenquist, however, made no such promise and got to work on finding a way to get legislation to pass.
Throughout 2014, Stenquist worked to build a network of patients, caregivers and supporters, originally organized as the Drug Policy Project of Northern Utah, and eventually the Drug Policy Project of Utah (DPPU). When former Sen. Mark Benson Madsen decided to run a bill for whole-plant medical cannabis legislation he was directed to Stenquist and DPPU, who fundraised and managed promotion for the legislation and generated international media coverage as well as the foundation of a much larger patient-led Utah movement. Madsen, also a cannabis patient, is the grandson of Ezra Taft Benson who served as the United States Secretary of Agriculture under President Eisenhower as well as led the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as president and prophet from 1985 until his death in 1994.
2015: Senate Bill 259
Utah shocked the world when it looked to be the first state not only to pass a CBD-only law, but to upgrade it to a whole-plant medical cannabis bill just one year later, S.B. 259.
DPPU worked directly out of Sen. Madsen’s office to educate and lobby legislators and coordinate a media campaign that put the bill in front of a national audience. We successfully changed the conversation, however, due to one surprise last minute flipped vote, the Utah Senate buried the bill. Stenquist began planning a new approach for 2016.
2016: TRUCE is Born
In 2016, Stenquist reorganized with a broader group of patients seeking more comprehensive access to medicinal cannabis, and TRUCE was born. Initially, TRUCE started as a support group for patients and advocates but quickly became the primary vehicle for raising public awareness about the medical cannabis movement in Utah. Working closely with Sen. Madsen, TRUCE worked to show Utah’s legislature, as well as the general public, the human side of the cannabis issue. Sen. Madsen tried again in 2016 to pass a bill through the state legislature, and was again defeated.
2017: Momentum to the Ballot
2018-2020: Truce Now!
As a community focused organization our primary goal is education. Through different types of outreach approaches our desire is to change the conversation from one that is based on cultural fear mongering to one that is based on science and compassion. Through public outreach initiatives, we host a series of free events such as public panels and speaking engagements, documentary viewing, community and political networking events and social media engagement such as live streaming our events. We do bring in modest revenue through continuing medical education (CME) courses, paid mini conferences and consultation work.