Opponents drop lawsuit to block medical marijuana initiative, but fight for voter support continues

Davis Cromar, center, holds his son Holden, 10, who suffers from epilepsy, while standing with other patients, caregivers and supporters during the Utah Patients Coalition news conference, in Salt Lake City, Utah, June 26, 2017 | Associated Press file photo by Rick Bowmer, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – A lawsuit that sought to block a measure legalizing medical marijuana in Utah from getting on the ballot was dropped by opponents Monday.

Though this potential roadblock has been removed for the time being, the fight over legalizing marijuana for medical use in conservative Utah will continue all the way to Election Day and possible beyond that.

Members of the West Wendover City Council look at marijuana being harvested at Deep Roots Harvest in Mesquite, Nev., undated | File photo courtesy of Ben Winslow, FOX 13 News, St. George News

The Coalition for a Safe and Healthy Utah decided to drop the lawsuit, but could refile at a later date, coalition attorney Blake Ostler told the Associated Press.

The lawsuit was originally filed in May after the ballot initiative was certified by the lieutenant governor’s office.

Read more: Medical marijuana opponents sue to block ballot initiative

With the lawsuit out of the way for now, it clears the way for the medical marijuana ballot initiative, now called Proposition 2, to appear on the November ballot.

If the measure passes, the coalition could refile its lawsuit and fight to have the law overturned, Ostler told The Salt Lake Tribune. The coalition argues that Utah voters don’t really know what’s in the initiative.

Members of the coalition, which includes the Utah Medical Association, Utah Eagle Forum, Sutherland Institute, Utah Chiefs of Police and other groups, have argued the ballot initiative will pave the way for recreational marijuana use in Utah.

Among the reasons the coalition dropped the lawsuit are changes taking place at the federal level, Ostler told Fox 13 News.

Last week, the Food and Drug Administration approved the marijuana-based medication Epidiolex for use in treating rare forms of epilepsy in children. The medication is CBD oil-based and lacks the psychoactive THC component that also comes from marijuana.

While marijuana remains a Schedule I drug under the Drug Enforcement Agency, CBD-based products have become readily available on store shelves. The legality and enforcement of the law has become murky.

Isolated cannabis buds, stock image | St. George News

In Utah, store-bought CBD oil was addressed in a recent law passed by the Legislature.

Read more: Legislature sends marijuana-related bills to governor’s desk

DJ Schanz, director of the Utah Patients Coalition that has pushed for the ballot initiative, called the lawsuit frivolous and said proponents were looking forward to Election Day.

The prospect of medical marijuana in Utah is opposed by Gov. Gary Herbert and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Medical marijuana legalization in Utah has enjoyed high levels of support among Utah voters according to polls conducted by The Salt Lake Tribune and Utah Policy over the last year.

Support has generally ranged around 75 percent from poll to poll, though a recent poll by the Tribune and Hinkley Institute of Politics shows support has dipped to around 70 percent.

Gov. Gary Herbert speaks at the 2018 Business Summit hosted by the St. George Area Chamber of Commerce at the Dixie Center, St. George, Utah, June 13, 2018 | File photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Mounting opposition to the ballot initiative in recent months is believed to have been a factor in the reduced support.

David Magleby, a political science professor at Brigham Young University, gave the measure 50-50 odds of passing.

“This is a Republican state, a conservative state and a moderate Republican governor and a very conservative Republican legislature are opposed to it,” he said. “And then there’s the LDS church that’s involved. For some people I think that position is going to be definitive.”

Read more: LDS church steps up opposition to Utah medical marijuana initiative

Magleby said the church’s involvement on medical marijuana has been more intense than on any other political issue in its home state in the last two decades.

The LDS church has said the ballot initiative raises some “serious adverse consequences” if approved, while Herbert does not support how the initiative is written. He says it doesn’t allow room for proper study and would put the state at odds with the federal prohibition on marijuana.

Supporters are planning to persuade voters by focusing on how they’ve narrowly tailored the proposal. People with medical approval couldn’t smoke marijuana if the initiative passed, but instead would be limited to edible forms such as candy, topical forms like lotions or balms, and oil in electronic cigarettes.

“The idea that it’s not smoked is a very Utah thing,” Schanz said. “That’s something that Utahns have a high aversion to; not so much the rest of the country.”

Nationwide, 31 states and the District of Columbia allow medical marijuana. Oklahoma voters approved a measure on medicinal cannabis last week.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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20 Comments

  • tcrider July 3, 2018 at 7:24 pm

    If it is legalized on a federal basis and leave it up to
    the states to do whatever they want, it could be beneficial
    for Utah to keep recreational weed outlawed and
    that could attract a lot of people to this state and drive
    up realty values.

    • Carpe Diem July 4, 2018 at 7:56 am

      The legalization of MJ in Colorado boosted tourism and RE values.

      Being the only State to prohibit MJ? Not so much.

      • tcrider July 4, 2018 at 2:16 pm

        but if you are the only state where it is illegal then
        it may attract transplants.

        • Carpe Diem July 5, 2018 at 7:19 am

          Can you imagine the tourism in States that are completely alcohol dry? Or a Country?

          That would be ISIS.

  • ladybugavenger July 3, 2018 at 7:50 pm

    Medical marijuana passed in oklahoma on June 26th. The next day I learned, you can apply for a medical marijuana license BUT, you cannot be a (legal) gun owner and get medical marijuana.

    Guns? or medical marijuana? Cuz you cant have both, legally.

    • ladybugavenger July 3, 2018 at 7:53 pm

      Sorry, July 26th not June

      • ladybugavenger July 4, 2018 at 4:01 am

        Crap it was June. It’s only July 4th. Lol.have no concept of time. It was Last week that I voted yes for medical marijuana.

        • Carpe Diem July 4, 2018 at 1:23 pm

          What the hay? I voted and didnt see MM on the ballot. Maybe because I had an “R” ballot? ha ha

          • ladybugavenger July 4, 2018 at 2:36 pm

            It’s in oklahoma. I voted on a Republican ballot. I’m just warning the Utahns about legal ownership and medical marijuana in oklahoma so you’ll be prepared if it goes on the ballot. Vote yes! But be prepared that utah might also put a stipulation that you cant be a legal gun owner and get a medical marijuana license. Our stupid governor stipulated no guns. Not under the influence and have possession of gun, but No registered Guns or CCW permit

    • Ben July 3, 2018 at 8:40 pm

      Like all of cannabis prohibition this is so flipping stupid it’s hard to believe!!

      The federal government has been blatantly lying about cannabis for decades and decades. Now they expect cannabis consumers to tell them the truth on a gun application form regarding cannabis? Too darn funny! The way I see it as long as I continue to use cannabis illegally I’m good to go with as many guns as I can carry. I can drink booze and carry a gun, I can take opioid pharmaceuticals and carry a gun no problem. But if I go legal with a medical cannabis card then no guns for me. So logic would dictate that I will continue to use cannabis “illegally” so that my constitutional rights will not be violated.

      • ladybugavenger July 4, 2018 at 3:57 am

        Yep, it’s absolutely ridiculous!

      • ladybugavenger July 4, 2018 at 4:13 am

        My husband is in chronic pain everyday, gabapentin stopped working. He was hoping to try medical marijuana. He refuses to take opioids because he doesnt want to be addicted (you know the opioid road). He was excited only to be let down the next day. The friday before election, we went to sheriff station to get finger printed, pay for and turn in our applications for conceal carry permits. We spent alot of money on guns, classes, fees, ($2200.00)

        So here we are, legal gun owners, application sent off CCW and my husband cant try medical marijuana to get some relief. Here we are trying to obey the laws and the law punishes us.

        It’s easier to do things illegal (what a shame) I dont want to go to jail. So we are left with a choice. And we are not giving up our guns, they are for protection.

        I say this, because oklahoma is similar to utah, just a different religion. So be prepared, this could happen in utah.

      • Icomments2 July 4, 2018 at 8:28 am

        I couldn’t agree more with you!!! Drinking alcohol you are more likely to use a gun stupidly than when smoking pot!!! I think thats just one way of trying to still control the pot users, if you smoke pot you cant own a gun!!! And as for the church they are the ones with kids that have the most birth defects from having so many, so I would think they’d be all for it!!! They shouldn’t be able to sway the vote without voting!!! How much more evidence does one need to prove the benefits out way the negatives!!! I don’t smoke it but I’m for it all!!! I’d also much rather smoke than take opioids!!! No lasting side affects or withdrawals symptoms!!! LDS kids are smoking it already anyway behind their parents back, and if youre a parent that has a kid that smokes you already know this!!! I do!!! DHHS, Snow Canyon High, Pine View are the worst for it!!!

  • Scott July 3, 2018 at 8:44 pm

    Great news. If you care about freedom and have compassion toward patients, I encourage everyone to register to vote and support the initiative.

  • PlanetU July 3, 2018 at 9:42 pm

    I’m all for medical marijuana but not recreational. “THE CHURCH” needs to stay out of it…….let the people decide.

  • FowRizzle July 3, 2018 at 10:35 pm

    We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution for the United States of America. We the 70%

  • ladybugavenger July 4, 2018 at 4:19 am

    How do we get the federal government to unclassify marijuana as a schedule 1 drug? And abolish the gun law of 1968 that makes it illegal to possess marijuana and a gun?

    • tcrider July 4, 2018 at 2:14 pm

      boner and McConnel are working on it and the pospotus promised to sign it.

  • asianspa July 4, 2018 at 8:40 am

    The Mormon church should be all for weed both recreational and medicinal. The missionary lessons will go over quite a bit better if someone is stoned out of their mind. Smoke enough pot and you too will see angels…

  • Carpe Diem July 4, 2018 at 1:24 pm

    Let it be known to all that pay attention, the COJCOLDS wants to withhold medicine from children and people who suffer very bad illnesses.

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