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One of the groups that legalized medical cannabis in Utah is closing

Posted at 3:37 PM, Oct 25, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — Christine Stenquist is ready for a change.

"It's time to focus on other things," she said in an interview Wednesday with FOX 13 News.

Stenquist is closing down Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education (TRUCE), the group she founded to push for legalization of medical cannabis in Utah.

"I feel like we were an authentic, pure voice advocating just for patient and public safety," she said of TRUCE.

Stenquist began her activism more than a decade ago as a Davis County mother with a brain tumor who wanted to use cannabis to treat her illnesses. She signed on as a sponsor of Proposition 2, the citizen ballot initiative that led to medical cannabis being legalized in the state. TRUCE broke ranks with other patient advocacy groups that negotiated with the Utah legislature when it overrode the initiative. Stenquist then became a plaintiff and sued the state of Utah over what the legislature ultimately did pass.

Even after all of that, she remained involved in prodding lawmakers and government agencies to make the program better for patients with a number of conditions who wanted to use medical cannabis. At times, she has been critical of the program and the quality of cannabis offered to patients, but she also offers praise to lawmakers when they do pass bills she believes will help people.

Reflecting on her work, Stenquist began to tear up and said she was proud of what TRUCE accomplished.

"I think I made a societal difference," she said. "Utah’s changing. Utah’s changing and I think we were a big part of that. And I think it shows the community you can make a difference. You can."

In TRUCE's absence, Stenquist said she wants more everyday people to get involved and not just leave it to patient advocacy groups that are focused more on industry and politics. Stenquist said people need to understand that they can influence policy, even when it seems like an uphill battle.

"I still engage with legislators on a much friendlier basis," she said, laughing. "Trying to educate because I'm very aware they don't know all the information. How could they know all the information about every topic? In my ignorance, in my early years of advocacy, I was so indignant that they didn’t understand. Over time, I learned to soften and teach more than lecture. That’s really what I think politics needs to get back to. If we can be more allies with our legislators and elected officials and not treat them as adversarial."

One of those Stenquist frequently engaged with on Utah's Capitol Hill is Senate Majority Leader Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City. He runs medical cannabis legislation for the Republican supermajority. At times, he and Stenquist have found themselves clashing on policy, but they have also worked together on cannabis issues.

"I appreciate those who are passionate about issues, advocate for what they believe in and engage in the legislative process," Sen. Vickers told FOX 13 News. "I wish Christine the best as she moves forward on this next chapter."

With TRUCE closed, Stenquist said she plans to step back a little bit and focus on her mental and physical health, spending more time with her family. She said she is doing some consulting work on cannabis, ensuring there are regulatory standards to protect patients.

Stenquist said people should not be shy about speaking up and urged them to show up at legislative committee hearings and board meetings, watch the proceedings and contact politicians.

"Cannabis was a great vehicle to teach the community how to use our government and use our government to our advantage. I don't want patients to keep thinking politics is happening to them," Stenquist said. "We need to happen to it."