ST. GEORGE – The fight between opponents and supporters of a medical cannabis initiative has taken a new turn with the filing of a lawsuit Thursday aimed at blocking the initiative’s march to the November ballot.
The lawsuit, filed against Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, whose office oversees elections in Utah, argues the medical marijuana initiative shouldn’t be allowed to go forward because it violates existing federal drug law.
The individual Plaintiffs are Utah citizens, parents, and grandparents, bringing this suit to prevent the harm to Utah’s safety as well as the health of their children and grandchildren from legalization of marijuana in violation of federal law and the federal and Utah Constitutions. Even more importantly, the Plaintiffs claim the constitutional protections of the United States and Utah Constitutions as well as of the rights conferred on them as taxpayers and voters who will be affected by the adverse effects of the Marijuana Initiative, which will increase abuse, dependency, and prevent the orderly administration of criminal drug laws and increase the number of car accidents and costs arising from adverse effects of using marijuana.
Marijuana is still considered a Schedule I drug under federal law. Despite that, the federal government has been relatively hands-off in relation to states rendering it legal for medical and recreational use within their borders. However, the Justice Department may not be as passive on the matter as it has in the past.
The 28-page lawsuit was filed by the Coalition for a Safe and Healthy Utah, better known the group Drug Safe Utah.
According the lawsuit, the anti-medical marijuana initiative group consists of the Utah Medical Association, Utah Eagle Forum, Sutherland Institute, Utah Prevention Coalition Association, behavioral health groups, Utah Narcotics Officers Association, Utah Chiefs of Police, along with other law enforcement groups and concerned citizens.
The lawsuit asks for an emergency injunction to block the ballot proposal.
The injunction retreads the same arguments Drug Safe Utah and its backers have made against the ballot initiative, such as it will interfere with state regulation of medical cannabis use and cultivation and would let people without proper medical training grow and sell cannabis.
Initiative opponents have also stated they believe the initiative will pave the way for recreational marijuana use in Utah
Backers of the initiative, such the Utah Patients Coalition, are not pleased with this latest round in the battle over the proposed state-legalization of medical marijuana.
“Our opposition is increasingly desperate,” the coalition said in a Facebook post Friday. “After failed fraudulent attempts to remove enough signatures to keep us off the ballot, now they’ve filed a lawsuit to try and force the Lieutenant Governor to not certify the initiative.”
Utah ballot initiatives must gain over 113,000 signatures from 27 of Utah’s 29 senate districts and meet the signature thresholds in 26 of those districts to qualify for a spot on the November ballot. The deadline for signature gathering was mid-April.
At the time the Utah Patients Coalition said it had gathered around 200,000 signatures. While that number has been whittled down as signatures were disqualified for various reasons, the current, unofficial tally of verified signatures is over 155,300, according to the Utah Elections website.
Drug Safe Utah sought to have signatures removed in counties where the medical marijuana initiative signature threshold was thin. It had until May 14 to persuade signers to remove their names.
Medical marijuana supporters accused the organization of misleading people about the ballot initiative. Drug Safe Utah denied those claims and said it fired canvassers who went beyond its approved talking points.
Another opponent of the initiative is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints which last week released a legal analysis it sponsored of the proposed ballot initiative that “raises grave concerns” should it be voted into law.
In response, the Libertas Institute, a libertarian-leaning think tank based in northern Utah, released a point-for-point rebuttal.
Links to the analysis and rebuttal, as well as the proposed Utah Medical Cannabis Act, are featured in the Resources section below.
- Ballot initiative: Utah Medical Cannabis Act
- Kirton McConkie legal analysis of the Utah Medical Cannabis Act
- Libertas Institute rebuttal of the Kirton McConkie legal analysis
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