Medical marijuana ballot initiative backers threaten to sue opponents over ‘deceptive tactics’

ST. GEORGE, Utah — Sponsors of the medical cannabis ballot initiative announced they planned to bring a lawsuit against their opponents, alleging fraud over efforts to get people to remove signatures from the citizen initiative petition.

In a letter provided to FOX 13, an attorney for the Utah Patients Coalition threatened a lawsuit against the Utah Medical Association, the Utah Eagle Forum, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the coalition they have formed, Drug Safe Utah.

“Your efforts to mislead voters who signed the Petition, in order to induce the withdrawal of their signatures from the Petition, not only renders the withdrawals void and without legal effect, but also gives rise to civil liability for damages incurred by the Coalition. Further, even if you did not employ fraudulent means to procure signature withdrawals, the withdrawal forms are defective and incomplete, and were improperly submitted to the county clerks. Finally, it appears that the Drug Enforcement Agency’s affiliation with Drug Safe Utah places them in direct and continuing violation of federal law,” attorney Kory Langhofer wrote.

The basis of the legal threat are videos FOX 13 broadcast earlier this week showing people making false claims to persuade St. George area voters into removing their signatures from the medical marijuana ballot initiative. The Utah Medical Association has questioned if those involved really work for the third-party company they hired, but acknowledged that papers obtained by the Utah Patients Coalition showing some of the tactics were improper and fired them.

The Utah Medical Association said Friday the legal threat had no merit.

“Most of the allegations directed against the name removal campaign could be equally applied to the signature gathering campaign. It appears at first blush to be a distraction, a last-minute maneuver to try to distract the removal campaign from its legitimate, legal efforts to educate voters as to the problems with the marijuana initiative,” UMA spokesman Mark Fotheringham said in an email.

Opponents of an initiative have until May 15 to undercut the signature threshold count to qualify for the November ballot. The Washington County Clerk’s Office told FOX 13 on Friday that so far, 329 removal requests have been made on the medical marijuana ballot initiative, and 190 for Count My Vote, the direct primary initiative.

Lt. Governor Spencer Cox has until June 1 to examine the removal requests and then either certify or reject the initiatives for the November ballot.

Read the letter here: