During his years of playing college football, Steve Tate had seen athletes who had become dependent on opioids or otherwise gotten tangled up in drugs that allowed them to heal or play or walk or kill their pain. He was fully aware of cases — people — far and wide who got fooled by and hooked on those drugs.
“It was a challenging issue,” he says. “A terrible issue.”
If only there had been an alternative treatment.
It wasn’t until the need presented itself in the worst possible personal way that he turned to an alternative, an illegal one in the state of Utah, for help to dull not his own pain, but the suffering of his ill baby.
He turned to marijuana, a small daily dose received from out of state and smuggled into the hospital, squeezed by him through a plastic syringe into the mouth of 15-month-old Hayes, Tate’s son who had been diagnosed with cancer six months earlier.
He didn’t want to do this. He had to.
That’s what a parent does when he or she sees his or her precious, beloved little one in horrible pain, struggling and suffering, undergoing chemotherapy, being weaned off morphine, being weaned off Oxycontin, unable to engage with words or a grin or any positive indication that he wants to go on living. Hayes was showing signs of the process’s awful side effects. He wouldn’t eat. He lost 15 percent of his body weight. His skin turned red with itchy splotches. He was suffering.
In those moments, it was Tate and his wife who needed relief from pain.
“As parents,” he says, “we were willing to do anything.”
“Until you’ve seen your child dying, you might not understand.”
A friend from high school contacted Tate and told him he could help, would be happy to send some product along and have it dropped off at the Tates’ home in Utah or otherwise delivered free of charge.
Within a week, Hayes’ condition improved.
“His normal complexion returned,” Tate says. “He started interacting with us again. He was almost back to his normal self. We knew medicinal marijuana wouldn’t cure cancer, but everything got better. The common misconception is that when somebody’s on marijuana, they’re baked. Hayes was sociable, engaging with us, much happier. We noticed a big difference.”
Hayes was Hayes, again.
For the first time Tate could remember, his baby son smiled. A portion of his quality of life returned, creating a stretch of memories that Tate clings to now, since Hayes’ life ended at 20 months.
Maybe you’ve already made up your mind about where you are on Proposition 2, the measure that will be put to vote in November regarding the legalization of medicinal marijuana in Utah.
Maybe you think it will mess over our society, stirring problems, turning teenagers into zombies, making our roads unsafe.
Maybe you think marijuana should only be legally obtained through a doctor’s prescription and dispensed through a pharmacy, properly controlled, if such legalization could ever be facilitated at the glacial federal level.
Or maybe you think those problems have already been stirred, and that people who are going to abuse marijuana already do — via their local dealer, through exchanges that remain common, yet shady, and carry no tax benefits, no regulation at all.
Maybe you know that if Proposition 2 passes, the state legislature can shape it any which way it wants, having heard the voice of the people and now hoping to address attendant concerns regarding marijuana’s proper distribution, for those who need it.
Maybe you know that opioids kill more people than marijuana ever has, not to mention alcohol and its abuse and that the stigma attached to marijuana is just that — a stigma.
In sports, there are hundreds and thousands of athletes and former athletes who take painkillers to ease their suffering from injury and make their existence tolerable. Many are absolutely hooked on them. Many of those athletes — some of them sports heroes of days gone by — either benefit or would benefit from the relatively mild consequences of using marijuana, as it is made available to them.
Just like Hayes Tate was, they are in significant pain. They need help.
Leaning on paranoia, insisting on waiting for some federal law to pass — a sensitive political process that could take years — in order to ease that suffering is easy to require, for those who are not suffering. Some opponents of Prop 2 are sincere and have worthwhile concerns. Notable citizens are falling on both sides of the vote.
On the whole, though, allowing for approval for using marijuana from a doctor, and making it available to those who are in need through dispensaries, would be a godsend for the afflicted, not an offense to God or a precursor to the ruination of society.
Remember, if Proposition 2 passes, the legislature can tweak it any which way it wants, and it can go on tweaking it, if it deems those tweaks necessary.
Steve Tate is a proponent of Prop 2. He knows some abuses might arise. But he wants it to pass. “I’m in favor of it,” he says. He is active LDS, which normally wouldn’t matter, but in this state, it does. “Just because I’m for this doesn’t mean I’m a bad Mormon,” he says.
It makes him a former athlete who sees a better way for those who suffer to find relief, it makes him a parent who was willing to break the law, whose heart was put back together for a few memorable months as his baby stopped hurting and crying and started recognizing him and reacting to his care and his love.
Should that go on being illegal in this state?
If you have a heart, you know the answer.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.