March 11, 2019 Print

Interest in medical marijuana has grown over the past few years, causing a wave of political movements and advocates working to make it legally available. Utah-based think tank Libertas Institute has been one of those long-standing advocates for the legalization of medical cannabis, and their tireless efforts paid off when the Utah state government passed the Utah Medical Cannabis Act, which allows patients with certain conditions to use cannabis as a form of treatment.

The bill was passed through the house in 2018 but was amended a few days later. Connor Boyack, founder of Libertas Institute and a 2015 graduate of Atlas Leadership Academy, helped rewrite the successful version of the bill. Now, Utah citizens who are sick and suffering have a safe haven to access alternative medicine without fear of the criminal justice system. 

Boyack’s advocacy stems from a desire to help lower the number of overdoses caused by legal prescription painkillers. 

“It appears that legal access to cannabis—a far safer pain management therapy than opiates—reduces the number of lives lost through addiction to, and overdose on, prescription drugs”, says Connor Boyack. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, “States with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8% lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate… compared with states without medical cannabis laws.” 

Despite significant opposition to the initial bill, Libertas Institute helped to forge a new option that incorporated feedback from the Utah Medical Association, patient advocacy groups, and a wide variety of local stakeholders who were interested in the final outcome. As Boyack pointed out in a statement, “This path secures a stable long term future for patients, rather than gambling their fate on the political uncertainties of hostile battles for years to come.” 

For patients in need of effective pain management, the freedom to choose medical cannabis can significantly improve their quality of life. As a result of the efforts of Libertas Institute, Utahns have a greater choice of safe pain management options, allowing them to avoid the risks and dependency that often results with prescription painkillers. 

Connor Boyack has taken several courses from Atlas Network’s Atlas Leadership Academy (ALA), including Think Tank Leadership Training and Lights, Camera, Liberty. He was paired in the Mentorship program with John Tillman of Illinois Policy Institute.

More info from Libertas Institute:

https://libertasutah.org/blog/improvements-in-the-medical-cannabis-compromise/

https://libertasutah.org/2016-bills/new-poll-half-of-utahns-affected-by-prescription-drug-overdoses/​