Utah medical marijuana supporters push back in court

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

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Supporters and opponents of medical marijuana in Utah are preparing to square off in court over a proposed ballot initiative, opening a new front for what has been a contentious public battle.

The Utah Patients Coalition, which drove medical marijuana initiatives, filed a challenge Monday seeking to intervene in a lawsuit brought by opponents citing federal drug law.

In court papers, supporters said they had spent significant amounts of time and money to place the ballot before voters in November and should be able to defend it from legal attacks.

Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, speaks at the Southwest Behavioral Center on the impacts of marijuana use and his opposition to the 2018 medical marijuana initiative. St. George, Utah, Jan. 17, 2018 | File photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

“While our opponents want to debate in the courtroom with a single judge deciding the fate of medical cannabis, we look forward to an active debate in the court of public opinion where all Utahns can have a say,” coalition director DJ Schanz said in a statement.

The case was brought Thursday by Drug Safe Utah. The group asked for an emergency court order blocking the question from reaching the ballot. They allege that the prospect of Utah legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes would be illegal since the drug remains outlawed at the federal level.

“It requires state employees to essentially violate federal law because they have to cooperate with people who are violating federal laws in selling medical marijuana,” said Blake Ostler, a lawyer representing Drug Safe Utah. “That in and of itself is a crime called aiding and abetting.”

The proposal would let people with certain medical conditions use edible or topical forms of the drug, but they would not be allowed to smoke it.

Thirty other states allow medical marijuana, but the idea has been the subject of fierce debate in Utah as it nears the finish line to go before voters. Republican Gov. Gary Herbert and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which counts roughly two-thirds of the state as members, are among the major names opposing the proposal.

In recent weeks, opponents of the measure have reached out to voters who signed a petition to put it on the ballot, asking them to rescind their signature and block it in its tracks. Preliminary results suggest they have not been successful, but the lieutenant governor’s office has until June 1 to certify the signatures.

A hearing on the case isn’t expected until the state decides whether the measure has made the ballot, at the request of Ostler’s team.

If they go to court, medical-marijuana opponents are likely to face tough odds, said Vanderbilt law professor Robert Mikos, who studies drug law.

“It’s a big stretch to say that a government official is complicit in the crime of private parties when they simply let those parties violate federal law,” he said.

Mikos said the Supreme Court’s ruling last week allowing states to legalize betting on sports confirmed a broader theory that also applies to marijuana.

“The state can’t block the government from enforcing its ban, but at the same time a state has no obligation to criminalize this behavior just because it’s illegal under federal law,” he said.

Written by LINDSAY WHITEHURST and JULIAN HATTEM, Associated Press

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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  • Real Life May 21, 2018 at 5:45 pm

    How can you “people of God” look at these children suffering from their debilitating diseases and tell them too bad, because my church says no? Are you really THAT brainwashed? If you are, then the people that call your religion a cult, are 100% correct.

    • dogmatic May 21, 2018 at 7:25 pm

      Real life, please help me, I’m confused ,marijuana is illegal under the federal government, so has the Mormons infiltrated the federal government? Other states it’s illegal..a huge Mormon conspiracy?
      Don’t think about it to long it might fry more of your brain cells.

      • mesaman May 21, 2018 at 8:41 pm

        You are on the right track, dogmatic. Real life would do us a favor if he/she/it were to make a name change to “get a life” and quit worrying about the majority. Insults only belittle this comment maker and doesn’t effect the outcome one iota.

        • Striker4 May 22, 2018 at 5:45 am

          definitely needs to get a life !

          • Real Life May 22, 2018 at 10:46 am

            You really want to go down this road again? Get back in your meds.

      • great success May 21, 2018 at 9:52 pm

        Funny. Now you fellas are team Fed?…

        Utah goes on and on about keeping the Feds out of the state…state level is where it’s at…Utah knows better….And Spencer Cox’s best argument becomes marijuana is illegal federally? I mean, I grew up minutes from Spencer’s hometown of Fairview, so I get it. The criminalization of marijuana is very strong in Utah, and rural towns are no exception. But to jump ship in Utah and say the Feds know best? Unheard of!

        In all seriousness, it won’t remain illegal for long. Alcohol and opioids are more acceptable in our culture now, in a very ass backwards kind of irony. But more adults who weren’t around during “The War on Drugs” and “Smelly, Dirty Hippies” movements are entering the ranks of our voting population, and just not buying that marijuana is worse than the aforementioned. I mean, we as a state and as a nation have declared an opioids crisis, an epidemic, it’s killing nearly 30 people a month in Utah, nationally each month by the hundreds, starting with people whose only choice for pain relief was the prescription heroin…..but somehow marijuana is still worse? ….?….

        • Anejo May 22, 2018 at 3:14 pm

          Ironic isn’t it, great success?

          I honestly believe that marijuana’s problem is one of PR. It’s still too intrinsically linked with the free love movement of the 60’s and we can’t have those damn freaky long hairs claiming legitimacy now can we? Didn’t our Lord say in Romans 14:2 “For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.” ? Or do we defer to Proverbs 15:17 “Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.”

          It will come to pass and once again the state’s resident naysayers will be on the wrong side of history.

      • Real Life May 22, 2018 at 10:51 am

        The only truth in your statement is that you are confused. And Mesaturd? He is irrelevant. Does your bishop know you were up past 8 o’clock?

    • Utahguns May 21, 2018 at 9:56 pm

      I wonder how many Mormon parents of afflicted children would love to be able to give their kids options at a more quality life but are handcuffed by their church?
      Think about that.

    • Mike P May 22, 2018 at 10:53 am

      I’m with you on this one Real Life. Just reading the responses you can see just how drainwashed they are. Unfortunately , so many are born into this religion and don’t know better, they just do what the church (?) says because they were trained to do so. Some do figure it out, that’s why their numbers are dwindling here in the states . I can’t understand how anyone, anybody and especially a CHURCH (?) would NOT want to help those in pain……but hey ! The Church says “sorry, here, take a handful of opiods instead” Our investments in this industry will build us more temples !

  • utahdiablo May 21, 2018 at 9:23 pm

    Drive to Mesquite, Las Vegas, Wendover, or Colorado ….Load up with as much as you want or need.

    • Carpe Diem May 22, 2018 at 7:48 am

      Stigma. You know Utah peeps are all for following the law, and only turn a blind eye when under age girls are getting pimped to prophets.

    • No Filter May 22, 2018 at 8:18 am

      Many do drive to Mesquite, but if caught crossing the state line you can be charged with drug trafficking and the cost could be really bad. The 1st offense: up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000 to $1 million. Very high penalty for someone just trying to help their children.

      • RadRabbit May 22, 2018 at 5:55 pm

        Always have the option of getting a U-haul and staying there.

      • jaybird May 22, 2018 at 8:02 pm

        Sure the cops are always going to stop and frisk for a candy bar or rubbing oil. Joking you are.

  • Concerned May 22, 2018 at 12:12 am

    I am an advocate for Medical Marijuana. I suffered with Hep. C and end stage liver disease for 30 years. It was truly a miracle and the relief I experienced was real. I believe it should be on the ballot no matter the religion. If it assists people then more power to it

  • ladybugavenger May 22, 2018 at 5:55 am

    I watched a show other day. Parents of children who have seizures. They gave them CBD oil and one child went from never speaking to saying words. It was heartbreaking and fascinating that it helped decrease seizures. The parents changed the law in their state.

    You cannot get high off of CBD oil, it’s made from marijuana, it worked on these children with no side effects. Its just more proof that marijuana has medical benefits. You know, it use to be legal and classified for medical use until the war on drugs. The federal gov’t is wrong in classifying marijuana the same has heroin, saying it has no medical benefit.

    It will make the anorexic, eat. It will make the person that cant sleep, sleep. It will make the anxious, chill. But instead they give out sleeping pills, anti depressants, anti anxiety meds with tons of side effects. Opioids handed out like candy. The world is upside down.

    When was the last time there was a major tragedy because someone smoked a joint?

  • Larry May 22, 2018 at 7:06 am

    Well… This Mormon will be voting for it! And I regret that I had but One Signature to add to the initiative. From what I have seen and heard in my ward, The Majority will be voting in favor of passage.

    Hey Utah! Could it be… THC may be a better health alternative and much less expensive than IHC…? (And yes I know most of the medical derivatives of medical cannabis contains very little or no THC, as is the case with industrial Hemp…But then there is DuPont that brainwashed you into buying nylon).

    • SSTEED May 22, 2018 at 10:48 am

      Good man! Way to step it up and break the mold. I salute you for having the courage to publicly stand up for whats right. I hope you are a trend setter, and thank you for your service to humanity.

  • Carpe Diem May 22, 2018 at 7:53 am

    CBD is a PROVEN miracle drug for people suffering from seizures, and may a pox land on the head of anyone attempting to prevent this medicine. Perhaps the pox is the over-prescription of Lortab and Oxy paving the way to deadly and financially debilitating heroin addiction.

    In the meantime, Utah continues to chase it’s tail while getting bit by the opioid crisis. Same goes for the Fed – but Russia! errr Stormy!… Sorry, I forgot.

  • Henry May 22, 2018 at 8:31 am

    I don’t understand why people are so afraid of marijuana- it’s readily available without being legalized. I read their anti marijuana propaganda letter… why do they want to deny people this medication while so many utahns suffer from chronic pain and would benefit? Every time a physician holding a drink tells me pot is bad for me, I ask how their liver feels about that.

    • comments May 22, 2018 at 10:31 am

      I’m convinced it’s a combination of fear of change (think dirty stoner hippy and idiot youth stoner stereotypes) and LDS afraid it’ll cut into their pharma profits.

  • Miriam May 22, 2018 at 10:12 am

    God made marijuana with all the benefits it possess to help heal and provide comfort to those diseased. Man made marijuana “bad”, illegal & taboo….. How can those who preach religion, turn their backs on their suffering brothers & sisters, and reject the gifts and medicines that God provides to them, only to embrace Man’s distorted ideas and medications that are killing more of God’s children than the diseases themselves?

    Come on people, religious beliefs aside, it’s common sense!!!!

  • Miriam May 22, 2018 at 10:33 am

    God made marijuana with all the benefits it possess to help heal and provide comfort to those diseased. Man made marijuana “bad”, illegal & taboo….. How can those who preach religion, turn their backs on their suffering brothers & sisters, and reject the gifts and medicines that God provides to them, only to embrace Man’s distorted ideas and medications that are killing more of God’s children than the diseases themselves?

  • Carpe Diem May 22, 2018 at 11:34 am

    I’ve bought CBD online in the past few years for a relative (legally I might add) but Big Pharma put a stop to it by getting the CC companies to quit taking payments – so now it’s a cash only business.

    Look at Big Pharma bribes errr Lobbyists to hammer US Congressmen to keep the lid off legalizing it Federally. This kind of cr*p is what is wrong with America.

    Maxine Waters lives in a 4 $Million dollar home, and no, she did not earn it.

  • Carpe Diem May 22, 2018 at 11:37 am

    “It’s no secret that the medical marijuana business is booming. According to research firm ArcView Group, the national market for medical cannabis was almost $7 billion in 2016 and is likely to reach $20 billion annually in just a few years. Medical marijuana is so successful that it is eroding the market share of the traditional pharmaceutical industry, colloquially known as “big pharma.”

    From 2010 to 2013, Medicare patients saved over $165 million annually by substituting marijuana for traditional medication in treating illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain, sleep disorders, epilepsy, anxiety, nerve pain, glaucoma, Tourette’s syndrome, and nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy.

    New Frontier Data, a private firm that provides data to the cannabis industry, reports that big pharma will probably lose $4 billion annually because patients are turning away from traditional medicine in favor of cannabis-based treatment for their ailments. Four billion dollars is a lot of money, but it pales in comparison to big pharma’s $425 billion dollars an annual market share.

    Big Pharma Attacks Medical Marijuana Over Eroding Market Share”…

    criminallawyersandiego dot com

    • jaybird May 22, 2018 at 7:58 pm

      Because it works. When pain is gone, you become functional.

    • Lee Saunders May 23, 2018 at 11:48 am

      Only thing I can even slightly disagree with you is when you call pharmaceutical medicines, “traditional”. I can’t help but remember Asia, where they really know what traditional medicines are.

  • jaybird May 22, 2018 at 7:56 pm

    Most people dont know that Isreal has been researching cannabis since the 1960s and funded by United States grants. Its used in some of its hospitals.

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