Group behind Prop 2 files complaint over opponents’ ‘false claims’ concerning medical marijuana initiative

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 — Supporters of Proposition 2, Utah’s medical cannabis ballot initiative, filed an elections complaint with the lieutenant governor’s office Tuesday against opponents they claim are spreading misleading statements through radio ads and other means.

The Utah Patients Coalition filed the complaint against Drug Safe Utah, claiming the group has “consistently and deliberately attempted to mislead the public about the contents of the Utah Medical Cannabis Act, also known as Proposition 2.”

A primary claim made by Drug Safe Utah and its supporters is that Proposition 2 isn’t about medical marijuana at all. Instead they claim it is a means to open the door to recreational marijuana use approved in the state.

“Prop 2 is actually about recreational use and not medical,” Bill Hamilton, representing the Utah Medical Association, said in a radio ad Drug Safe Utah has produced and played over the air.

The radio ad and a phone poll are the latest attempts by Drug Safe Utah to try to turn voters against Proposition 2 while continuing to make “demonstrably false claims” about Proposition 2, the complaint alleges.

The Drug Safe Utah radio ad states that medical marijuana is already legal in Utah and that it can be obtained through a medical doctor’s prescription or bought over the counter. The Utah Patients Coalition say this statement is meant to confuse and mislead voters.

The Drug Safe Utah ad does not go into detail of just how medical marijuana is legal in Utah and to what extent. However, the group clarified the statement in a response to the coalition’s complaint shared with Fox 13 News Tuesday.

Doctors in Utah can prescribe or recommend medicinal marijuana. The Utah Legislature, for example, passed HB 195 and 197 in 2018 allowing physicians in Utah to recommend marijuana-based medicines to terminally-ill patients in the last six months of their lives so long as in medicinal form.

Physicians can prescribe marijuana-based drugs approved by the FDA, which include the following: Epidiolex (for the treatment of seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome or Dravet syndrome in patients 2 years of age and older); Marinol and Syndros (for the treatment of anorexia associated with weight loss in AIDS patients); and Cesamet. You can now buy CBD oil, a marijuana extract medicine, over the counter in Utah. The Utah Legislature authorized such sales in SB 130 in 2018.

Beyond this, marijuana remains an illegal substance under state and federal law.

“These legal claims … could mislead some in the public into believing they will not be arrested, charged, or otherwise impeded for possessing or using cannabis in Utah, even for medicinal purposes,” the complaint reads.

Marijuana plants for sale at a dispensary in Oakland, Calif., Jan. 1, 2018 | Associated Press file photo by Mathew Sumner, St. George News

The complaint goes on to argue Drug Safe Utah’s claims that Proposition 2 will limit law enforcement’s ability to arrest and charge people with laws related to marijuana possession and use, are also false.

According to the Utah Patients Coalition, some radio stations have stopped running Drug Safe Utah’s ad.

Citing Utah law that prohibits a person or group from knowingly making false statements against a political candidate or measure in an attempt to sway an election, the Utah Patients Coalition is asking the lieutenant governor’s office to sanction Drug Safe Utah and make it stop spreading the allegedly false claims.

“Drug Safe Utah stands by its public statements and ads and will respond to this effort to silence debate. Proposition 2, which was drafted in part by the marijuana industry, contains none of the traditional safeguards of medical practice; instead, it makes recreational marijuana easily accessible,” Drug Safe Utah said in its response to the complaint, according to Fox 13 News.

Elder Jack N. Gerard of the Seventy and member of a coalition to find alternatives to the medical marijuana initiative on the Utah ballot, speaks at a press conference at the State Office Building Auditorium, Salt Lake City, Utah, Aug. 23, 2018 | File photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, St. George News

The elections complaint was filed the same day UtahPolicy.com published a poll conducted by Dan Jones & Associates that shows nearly two-thirds of Utahns support Proposition 2. However, support has dropped in the wake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints throwing its support behind Drug Safe Utah last week.

Read more: LDS church, others OK with medical marijuana but not how Proposition 2 would do it

Overall support for Proposition 2 stands at 64 percent, with 33 percent opposed and 2 percent undecided. In May, 72 percent were in favor of the initiative

While “strong” support for Proposition 2 remains high, according to UtahPolicy.com, support among “very active” members of the LDS church flipped from a majority favoring the measure to against.

In May, church member support for Proposition 2 was at 59 percent. The latest poll shows 52 percent support among respondents who identify themselves as “very active” Mormons – that is, those who pay tithing and hold a temple recommend, according to UtahPolicy.com.

Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

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

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