Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Marijuana Advocates Sue Utah Over Compromised Cannabis Bill

Making good on a promise to come at the state with all guns blazing if a medical marijuana ballot initiative was trashed for compromise legislation, a couple of cannabis advocacy group are suing Governor Gary Herbert and officials with the Health Department for dealing in corruption. The lawsuit asserts that the state allowed the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to have an unconstitutional influence in the state’s new medical marijuana law, and they are asking for the state to honor the measure approved by the people — Proposition 2 — in the midterms

Ahead of the November election, the Mormon church got together with lawmakers, cannabis advocates and the governor to negotiate a compromise to the medical marijuana initiative that was expected to have success at the polls. The concept behind this deal was that if the pro-cannabis folks agreed to some middle-of-the-road offering (something a little more restrictive) than win-or-lose medical marijuana would be made legal one way or another. If they failed to take the deal, and the ballot initiative passed, Mormon leaders promised to make it a hard road. So, feeling pressured to do what was right for patients, cannabis advocates went along with the compromise.

Proposition 2 was indeed approved by the 53 percent of the voters last month – legalizing medical marijuana statewide. But then on Monday, the state legislature and Governor Herbert swooped in and pushed through a compromise bill, which knocked the one the voters approved off the table.

The new law does not allow much cannabis industry influence. All of the dispensaries will be run by the Utah Health Department and there are many other restrictions, as well. For instance, there is no cultivation allowed, certain pot products are banned and all medical marijuana must be dispensed by a state-licensed pharmacist.

This is the reason Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education, or TRUCE, and the Epilepsy Association of Utah has come forward with a lawsuit. They believe this will hinder patient access.

“Anything that defeats the right of the people to pass their own legislation under our constitution should be declared unconstitutional. Otherwise, it’s totally illusory,” TRUCE attorney Rocky Anderson told Fox 13. “It prohibits the control of the state or interference in the functions of government by any church and that is exactly what we have seen here.”

The complaint is calling for an injunction that would prohibit the state from moving forward with its new medical marijuana law. It is also asking the courts to force the state to implement Proposition 2.

Governor Herbert’s office has not yet responded to the lawsuit. However, after signing the compromise bill earlier this week, he said Utah just passed “the best designed medical cannabis program in the country.”

It is important to understand that this case is more than just a debate over how many dispensaries and what types of pot products will be allowed. It’s really about state government disregarding the people and doing what they want. “It prohibits the control of the state or interference in the functions of government by any church and that is exactly what we have seen here,” Anderson said.


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