ST. GEORGE — A lawsuit filed last week asks a judge to block Proposition 2 – the ballot initiative that would legalize medical cannabis in Utah – on the grounds that it would violate religious and other constitutional freedoms if passed in November.
Plaintiffs listed on the lawsuit are Walter Plumb III, a financial backer of efforts opposing the initiative and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as well as anti-Proposition 2 groups the Coalition for a Safe and Healthy Utah and Drug Safe Utah. However, Plumb has said he plans to amend the lawsuit to drop the two groups and add a new one called Truth About Prop 2, according to Fox 13 News.
If granted, the injunction the lawsuit seeks would keep Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox from putting Proposition 2 on the ballot.
“In the United States, members of all religions, including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have a constitutional right to exercise their religious beliefs,” the lawsuit reads. “This includes the right not to consort with, or be around, or do business with people engaging in activities which their religion finds morally repugnant, and to refuse to lease their property to people engaging in activities they appose.”
The lawsuit states the language in the Proposition 2 mandates that church members “would have to have open their homes and personal property to tenants who possess and consume mind-altering substances, which is a direct affront to their deeply held religious beliefs.”
Proposition 2, also called the Utah Medial Cannabis Act, states that no property owner can refuse to lease or otherwise penalize an individual solely based on their being a medical cannabis holder.
Proposition 2 would also negatively impact an individual’s religious freedom because it would force them to do business with people they would rather not, the lawsuit states.
Conner Boyack, president of the Utah-based, libertarian-leaning think tank Libertas Institute, which supports Proposition 2, spoke against the lawsuit over Twitter. A Latter-day Saint himself, Boyack said Plumb does not speak for him or the church.
Walter Plumb thinks that Mormons consider it “repugnant” when, for example, an aged grandma uses a cannabis lotion to alleviate some pain in her arthritic joints…
— Connor Boyack (@cboyack) August 16, 2018
“I am a Christian and I’m against this. I’m against marijuana, I’m against whole plant marijuana,” Plumb told Fox 13 News Thursday. “I’m not against the extracts such as CBD oil that may help people for the FDA approved marijuana products.”
The lawsuit also argues Proposition 2 violates free speech freedoms by blocking a property owner’s ability to ban cannabis possession and use on their property.
“Utah landowning citizens have a right to express their freedom of speech through expressive conduct, including using their property to espouse their speech and beliefs by refusing to lease to individuals who possess and consume cannabis,” the lawsuit states.
It also argues that Proposition 2 would make medical cannabis users a protected class while taking rights away from property owners.
In addition, it states that the smell left by smoking marijuana can leave a stench within a dwelling that is hard to remove and could cause a financial burden to the property owner. At least with someone who smokes regular cigarettes, a property owner can stipulate that the smoker can’t smoke inside, pay a larger security deposit and so on. Someone renting to a medical cannabis card holder would not be able to enact those same restrictions.
Plumb is noted in the lawsuit as being a Latter-day Saint and Utah property owner who could be adversely affected by the passing of the medical cannabis act.
Opponents of legalizing medical marijuana in Utah, at least through Proposition 2, include the Utah Medical Association, Gov. Gary Herbert and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
A primary argument against the legalization of medical cannabis is that it could lead to the legalization of recreational use.
The church stated its opposition through a legal analysis of the ballot initiative conducted by the Kirton McConkie released in May. Church officials said the analysis “raises great concerns” about the consequences the initiative may have if passed by voters.
The church has declined media requests for comment on Plumb’s lawsuit.
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