Cannabis bill moves forward after impassioned plea by Orem family 07

Aaron Campbell walks with his daughter Madelena and his son Elijah after SB259 was approved by the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City on Feb. 26, 2015. Advocating for changes in Utah law as it relates to the use of medical cannabis may be a lot of hard work, as Aaron points out in an open letter to his son Elijah, but public debate on issues is a vital part of the democratic process in the United States.

Dear Son,

Yesterday, on your 12th birthday, you asked your mother if it wouldn’t be easier if she simply let others talk to the senators, newspapers and the Church about the medical marijuana law?

Well, son, I will answer your question by reminding you of our life in Egypt. I bet your memories of living in Egypt are filled with snorkeling in the Red Sea and eating Cinnabons on the boardwalk. I also remember living under the watchful eye of a brutal dictator where our Egyptian friends and neighbors didn’t feel safe talking openly about the government, the president or many issues that affected their lives. Unlike Egypt, the founding fathers of the United States and your pioneer ancestors sacrificed their lives to give us constitutional freedoms, a citizen-run government and a culture of openness and public discourse where we can safely talk openly about our views and influence the laws in this country.

You will find that it is human nature to draw upon our passions and act on deeply held personal beliefs that affect our lives and our families. It is important that we not abdicate our personal and civic responsibility when we have the opportunity to improve the world, influence lawmakers and shape public policy.

Grandpa and Grandma Campbell taught us that we should always have the integrity to do what we feel is right without hesitation. Remember Captain Moroni from the Book of Mormon? He was so upset by the cunning words of men who wanted political power that he ripped his coat off and wrote: “In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children.” His actions inspired many men and women to follow him and join his cause.

After months of research, your mother and I know that medical cannabis helps Maddie in many ways. Had we acted sooner we could have also helped Tori with the proper cannabis oil. We believe that everyone should have the freedom to work directly with their doctors to determine the proper treatment for their loved ones.

We get so many phone calls, texts and emails from doctors, bishops and other Mormon families who are using or researching medical cannabis for their loved ones. Many of them have seen the benefits of this wonderful plant and we hope that they will get the courage not only to call their lawmakers and church leaders, but also join us publicly in support of SB73.

Keep in mind, Elijah, that everyone else has the free agency and same opportunity to stand up and fight for those things they believe in.

This means that others will have differing opinions, different beliefs and differing viewpoints -- which is very good and necessary for everyone.

The Constitution of the United States not only encourages public difference of opinion, but also requires a rigorous public debate between opposing viewpoints. It may seem easier and tempting to forsake your integrity by covertly manipulating others or operating in the shadows. But doing so undermines the public democratic process and creates a temptation to use bullying, covert threats and "unrighteous dominion" tactics that are wrong and harmful to developing good public policy.

A few weeks ago our own LDS Church, when faced with an opportunity to secretly stay under the radar to influence lawmakers, chose at great risk, to publicly announce its opposition to SB73. The Church correctly understood that as the most influential institution in Utah it is held to a higher standard than others. Yet despite the inherent risks of going public, leaders knew that whisper campaigns and covert lobbying tactics are unbecoming of the Church and these tactics subvert the ability for everyone to publicly work together to find common ground and shared solutions. Your mother and I look forward to working with the Church to teach and learn from each other on this issue.

In addition to the LDS Church, there are dozens of other groups, families, lawmakers and special interest groups that have differing opinions on how to best implement a comprehensive cannabis bill for the citizens of Utah. If we didn’t stand up for our beliefs and interests it is unlikely anyone else would do the same.

Your mother and I are grateful to live in a country where we are free to express our opinions and help shape the law during the 40 days lawmakers are in session. Forty days isn’t that long, so we need to work hard.

And, Elijah, if after 40 days, we feel that the Utah lawmakers did not make the right choice to pass a comprehensive cannabis law to help families, we always have the option to create a ballot initiative, which allows all of the voters in Utah to decide the issue for themselves.

Elijah, in answer to your question, yes, it would be easier to let someone else do all of this hard work. But, son, remember this quote by Teddy Roosevelt, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty.” Our founding fathers, our pioneer ancestors and your own grandparents understood this principle.

As a young man, we expect you to live according to the same principles of securing life, liberty and happiness for your family and for others in your community. In fact, Elijah, why don’t you start now on your Citizenship in the Community Merit Badge and come to the Capitol with your mother and I this week? Perhaps we can meet with our local representative, Brad Daw, and talk to him about the merits of Senate Bill 73. :-)

Love always,