Medical marijuana opponents sue to block ballot initiative

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

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.

Read more: Sessions ends policy that let legal marijuana trade grow; Hatch’s office calls action a ‘roadblock’

Isolated cannabis buds, stock image | St. George News

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.

Read more: Voters could be deciding factor for medical marijuana, Medicaid expansion, other ballot initiatives

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.

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

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.”

Read more: Video shows anti-medical cannabis canvasser making false statements about ballot 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.

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

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.


Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @MoriKessler

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

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!


  • Utahguns May 19, 2018 at 3:41 pm

    I wouldn’t expect anything less from the religious zealots in this state.

  • PogoStik May 19, 2018 at 4:42 pm

    If you don’t want to use cannabis-based medication then simply don’t use it. Tell your doctor you would prefer something else. But you don’t have to pass laws preventing others from benefiting from this medication. And why would you oppose this medication when you didn’t express opposition to the widespread sale and use of Opioids?

  • Brenden May 20, 2018 at 12:50 pm

    To understand the depth of the situation all one needs to do is follow the money. Keeping cannabis illegal has its benefits for State politicians and a variety of different corporations. It has nothing to do with the lack of established scientific information to support its medical benefits, they are well-known and Utah doesn’t need State sourced information to prove it. Follow the long list of benefits from other states and other countries who have legalized cannabis in all forms, and you’ll see exactly why it’s illegal.

    One of the main reasons Utah won’t legalize cannabis is because of the Utah Board of medical directors. The pharmaceutical corporations that line their pockets would take a heavy hit if marijuana were legalized. Senators like Evan Vickers have been the deciding factor on many votes. Evan Vickers owns three Pharmaceutical companies, and they are directly involved in supplying IHC with its prescription medication, including an overabundance of opiates and pain meds. He has created legislation, that could potentially legalize medical marijuana, but only under the condition that pharmacies have complete control over the medication, he did this for obvious reasons to maintain his pharmaceutical profits.

    As most of you know Utah ranks as one of the highest States for prescription medication abuse. As seen in other states the legalization of marijuana whether it be recreational or medicinal has lead to a direct decrease in the use of opiates for pain, and other prescribed medications for things like depression; a decrease in more than 50% in States who have had it legalized the longest. The states who have not yet legalized cannabis still rank amongst the highest for prescription drug abuse, and opiate overdoses.

    Utah’s solution was to subsidize naloxone and Suboxone making it readily available to government officials to combat the opioid epidemic. Again we need to follow the money, the same pharmaceutical corporations producing naloxone and Suboxone are the same corporations who are inflating the opioid epidemic, so they will make money either way. Legalizing cannabis would directly decrease the need for opiates, simultaneously decreasing the need for suboxone and other related pharmaceutical drugs. This is one of the biggest reasons why cannabis is illegal in Utah and other states, but it isn’t the biggest reason from what I’ve seen.

    I think the real reason marijuana is illegal is because of its relation to its cousin plant, hemp. Utah is a major player in the agricultural industry growing things from alfalfa to corn. Knowing that Utah, and a lot of politicians make their money from these interest groups, it’s easy to see why they would want to keep hemp illegal. Again people like Senator Evan Vickers have a lot to lose. He’s the senator of district 28 which includes Beaver, Washington and Iron County, some of the biggest agricultural producers in the state!

    For decades Utah has pandered the misconception that hemp is the same as marijuana to maintain agricultural production for crops like corn and alfalfa. In reality industriel hemp lacks the psychoactive properties, and is structurally different as well. Utah politicians claim that the main reason hemp is illegal, is because it looks like marijuana and that it could be hidden within an industrial hemp crop. That is the last standing argument they have against legalizing it. Hemp is illegal because of its agricultural diversity, having the ability produce food, fuel and textiles, it would directly interfere with less sustainable options like corn and alfalfa.

    If marijuana is legalized, there is absolutely nothing in the way of keeping Industrial Hemp out of the hands of farmers, it would localize Utah’s agricultural system, and directly take money away from the biggest agricultural lobbies in the state who operate on exportation. Utah politicians like Evan Vickers would lose money if it ever became legal.

    • comments May 20, 2018 at 5:26 pm

      And, I’ll just add, LD$ inc. and pharma go together like bread and butter. At the end of the day their motivation is always the $$$. So many powerful LDS own interests in pharma. LDS inc. is gonna look out for those good ol’ boys, no doubt.

  • max May 20, 2018 at 4:50 pm

    Or you could quite complaining at how bad this state is and move somewhere where it is already legal. I am sure they would be happy to accept you. Why exactly do you stay in Utah to begin with? Must be something that we do that is not done else where to keep you here even though you hate it. Medical marijuana is already legal, Its called CBD oil, it has been legal since the 60’s and has all that marijuana has to offer medically. So stop hiding behind that lame excuse that it is for medical reasons because all you are wanting is to get high. Plain and simple.

    • comments May 20, 2018 at 5:29 pm

      Good ol’ “suddern” utah is changing fast. It’s gonna change for the worse regardless of medical cannabis. The ol’ “if you don’t like it leave” thing just plainly makes you look like an ignorant imbecile.

      • max May 23, 2018 at 10:53 am

        Try marinol then. There are literally over 20 types of approved forms of medical marijuana, too bad you just want to get high like I said.

    • jaybird May 21, 2018 at 5:41 am

      max, are you just ignorant or just plain simple minded? Start reading and be mindful that medicinal cannabis has helped children with debilitating seizures. The CBD oil you explain is not cannabis but hemp oil and it’s about as good as the snake oil you sell.

    • Scott May 21, 2018 at 7:44 am

      Max, I used to think like you. When I was presented with new, scary information it created cognitive dissonance. I didn’t like seeing my way of life changing. So I fought it and told people to move away. When I finally embraced different viewpoints my life opened up in ways unimaginable. Good luck on your journey, brother.

      • max May 23, 2018 at 10:55 am

        Look it up and actually do research other then “google” . Show me some peer reviewed scientific journals of facts that show the real effects of marijuana. Too bad you wont find any, but you sure will find hundreds of scientific facts about how bad it is. open up your mind to the truth, not skewed liberal minded media

  • jaybird May 20, 2018 at 7:51 pm

    This state is run by the LDS church and its antique clan of clergy, ripping it off all the way and turning its population into addicted sheep. As soon as these 100 year old men die off maybe there is a chance for progress other than the old white man dictates. Until then, fly to California or Colorado from Vegas, and bring your CBD medication home from there. Its legal in all those states. So LDS f off while you relax pain free.

    • comments May 20, 2018 at 10:31 pm

      You know, with the LDS theocracy in this state comes good and bad. Not everything about LDS culture is bad, by any means. But LDS inc. cozying up with pharma and these BS corrupt medical lobbying powergroups or “medical associations” is def bad news. I wish they’d clean up their ways, because at the end of the day it is corrupt AND IT IS ALL ABOUT $$$.

  • No Filter May 21, 2018 at 8:42 am

    Funny how this group is using the federal governments rules to support their interest, but as soon as the government steps in on something they don’t like they preach “states rights”. I wouldn’t doubt it if these are the same people who are suing the federal government over public land issues. Just as you all have said, the LDS controls the state and until we vote out these politicians who follow LDS orders we will never move forward with progress. Keep your religion, but give us back our government. We must have separation of church and state!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.