State Sen. Jim Dabakis spent more than a minute wrestling with his childproof pouch of marijuana-infused gummies before it would open and release its scent — tangerine.
Picking one of the gelatin blobs out of the $30 bag, he nibbled it to find the taste was more acrid than fruity. He grimaced into the cellphone camera that was broadcasting the whole thing over Facebook Live.
The idiosyncratic Democrat said he decided to conduct the cannabis sampling experiment during a weekend trip to Nevada, which legalized recreational marijuana last year. His goal: to try the substance before lawmakers gather next month in a special session to decide the future of medical marijuana in the state.
“I thought it was about time that at least one legislator knew a little about marijuana before we changed all the laws,” Dabakis said during the Saturday Facebook Live broadcast outside the NuLeaf dispensary in Las Vegas.
His video, which clocked in at about 4 minutes, 40 seconds, had been watched more than 157,000 times on Facebook by Tuesday afternoon and had garnered rave reviews from many viewers.
“I really wish the rest of the Legislature would join you!” one person wrote.
The broadcast shows Dabakis, a self-described “marijuana virgin,” swallowing half a gummy, as advised by a dispensary employee. Afterward, he said, he hunkered down to wait for some kind of sensation. And waited. And waited.
Several hours later and another gummy down, he did feel a “little buzz,” but nothing life-altering, he said. Nothing, for instance, that would make him reluctant to pass a medical marijuana program in Utah.
The senator is known for bringing a dramatic flair into the halls of government — he once downed two mimosas before a legislative hearing to illustrate that Utah’s drunken driving limit was too low. But he insists that he’d never before consumed cannabis, whether smoked, eaten or … injected.
“I have never … shot up marijuana in my life,” Dabakis said (he says the comment was made in jest).
In case any of his viewers had concerns, Dabakis rattled off a list of disclaimers during the broadcast: A designated driver was on hand, and no tax dollars were spent. He did not bring any edibles back into Utah and left the remaining gummies in the care of his Las Vegas hotel maid, he said.
He called the marijuana experiment his “great sacrifice,” made in the name of good government and Utahns far and wide.
His fellow lawmakers likely will not see the same imperative to cram in a marijuana experience before they vote on the Utah Medical Cannabis Act next month.
“Put it this way — I’m not going to accept the challenge,” Sen. David Hinkins, an Orangeville Republican, said Tuesday.
Hinkins said by Dabakis’ logic, a lawmaker would need to get drunk before voting on alcohol bills and text while driving before passing phone-safety legislation.
Hinkins said he does not plan to vote for Proposition 2, the medical marijuana ballot initiative, and probably won’t support the cannabis legislation during a special session. Lawmakers are expected to take up the legislation in mid-November, whether or not Prop 2 passes on Election Day.
While Hinkins doesn’t have a problem with prescribed medications, his concern is the medical cannabis program could open the door to recreational use and addiction.
Gayle Ruzicka, a member of the anti-initiative group Drug Safe Utah and president of the Utah Eagle Forum, said she doesn’t think lawmakers are unnecessarily cautious when it comes to marijuana policy.
“It is a psychoactive drug, and it’s very dangerous. I don’t think we should make light of that,” she said.
Dabakis said, in the end, his broadcast wasn’t addressed so much to lawmakers as to many Utahns who feel left out of the legislative process.
“We have this one perspective, one view on issues, and I think our state is greatly hurt,” he said. “I think the lack of diversity … causes us to cut out a lot of people in the state of Utah who just feel like they aren’t represented.”