SALT LAKE CITY — The latest numbers show the medical marijuana ballot initiative may have survived an attempt to undercut it with a signature removal campaign.
The Washington County Clerk’s Office provided FOX 13 with numbers as of Monday evening, showing 366 signature removal requests had been received for the medical cannabis initiative and 686 for Count My Vote, the direct primary initiative. It’s still a moving target, as signatures continue to be validated and the total numbers move up and down. To qualify for the ballot, citizen initiative petitions must get a threshold of signatures in 26 of Utah’s 29 Senate districts.
Based on the latest numbers for Senate District 29 (Washington County), Count My Vote would be in danger of being undercut. However, Count My Vote director Taylor Morgan said he believed they would survive the signature removal efforts with 800 signatures still in that district needing to be validated.
“Election officials are still processing petition signatures. We’re confident that Count My Vote will be on the ballot and we’re excited that Utah voters will have the final day on how we elect public officials in our state,” he said.
May 15 is the deadline for signature removals. After that, Lt. Governor Spencer Cox’s office will review those removal requests to determine if they are valid and then certify which ballot initiatives would be before voters in November. A FOX 13 analysis of signature thresholds shows all four — medical marijuana, direct primary, independent redistricting and Medicaid expansion — have tentatively qualified.
The Lt. Governor makes the determination by June 1.
“We are still watching the numbers and trying to unravel the deceptive practices used to remove people names from the ballot initiative. If we are able (which it looks like we will) to withstand this aggressive and well funded signature removal campaign, it only further shows that Utahns are ready to give patients access to the medicine they so desperately need and stop criminalizing these medically vulnerable people as criminals,” said DJ Schanz, the director of the Utah Patients Coalition, which is sponsoring the initiative.
The Utah Patients Coalition has threatened legal action against its opponents, a coalition called Drug Safe Utah, that includes the Utah Medical Association, Utah Eagle Forum, the DEA Metro Narcotics Task Force and others. Medical marijuana supporters have alleged “deceptive tactics” to get people to remove signatures. Some of those supporters have videotaped employees of a third-party hired by Drug Safe Utah to persuade people to remove signatures.
Drug Safe Utah has filed an election complaint against the Utah Patients Association, accusing them of offering money to buy data from those seeking to remove signatures. The Utah Attorney General’s Office is investigating that complaint.
Meanwhile, the libertarian-leaning Libertas Institute published a scathing rebuttal to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ legal analysis released last week. Libertas Institute president Connor Boyack, who helped draft the initiative, blasted the LDS Church’s analysis as “a one-sided attack piece shrouded in legalese to give the appearance of legitimacy.”
“We reaffirm our willingness to engage in a discussion in which all sides can be heard and where suffering Latter-day Saints can explain the harm caused by both the status quo and the Church’s ongoing opposition to efforts to change the law,” he said in a statement. “Whatever the outcome of the certification of the ballot initiative, we hope that these discussions can take place and that public statements and decisions can be the byproduct of input not just from a few lawyers, but from Utahns deeply affected by this issue.”