Medical marijuana backers accuse opponents of trying to turn in removal signatures after hours

FARMINGTON, Utah — Sponsors of the medical marijuana ballot initiative have accused their opponents of trying to turn in requests to remove signatures after hours.

Davis Co. Clerk Curtis Koch is confronted by supporters of the medical marijuana ballot initiative outside his office late Monday. (Image by Arron Healy, FOX 13 News)

The Utah Patients Coalition said representatives of the Utah Medical Association tried to turn in signatures at both the Davis County Clerk Curtis Koch’s office and home. FOX 13 had a news camera that captured some people outside his office late Monday.

May 15 was the deadline for opponents of a ballot initiative to submit applications to remove signatures from citizen petitions.

However, Koch told reporters and medical marijuana supporters who confronted him outside his office that he refused to accept any signature removal forms after business hours.

Koch told FOX 13 on Tuesday he was not making a special accommodation for anyone, but was simply working late at his office. Koch said he saw a face staring in his office window at 10:45 p.m., startling him and he called police.

Koch said when he walked outside the building to go home, he was confronted by medical cannabis initiative supporters.

“They start quizzing me and making innuendo that something nefarious was going on. I was annoyed my integrity was called into question,” he told FOX 13.

To prove to them he worked late, he put his wife on the phone. Koch said she then told him there were opponents of the ballot initiative at his home.

“I was annoyed someone would go to my house,” he said.

Koch said when he got home, someone had dropped off signature recision packets. He took them in to his office on Tuesday morning and stamped them received, past the deadline. He said he contacted the people who submitted them and informed them they were too late.

“At this point both sides exhibited poor judgment,” Koch said.

Supporters of the medical marijuana initiative insisted they were trying to ensure fair treatment.

“We thought it was weird they were out still trying to rescind signatures,” said DJ Schanz of the Utah Patient’s Coalition. He said he raced to the county clerk’s office upon hearing of a crowd gathering there around 10 p.m.

“There’s a lot of strange coincidences. We’re just glad things are being followed through properly and that these recision letters more than likely would not be accepted since they weren’t in at close of office,” he said.

A spokesman for the Utah Medical Association told FOX 13 on Tuesday that representatives of Drug Safe Utah did attempt to deliver signature removal packets, but insisted it was problem free and backers of the ballot initiative were attempting to stir up controversy.

“We’re following all the rules and regulations they are listed in statute,” Mark Fotheringham said. “Nothing in the statute says there is anything about business hours.”

The accusations are the latest in a nasty battle between supporters and opponents of the medical marijuana ballot initiative. The UMA, working in a coalition with other groups called Drug Safe Utah, has filed an election complaint against the Utah Patients Coalition, accusing them of offering to pay workers in St. George for signature removal forms not turned in. That’s now under investigation by the Utah Attorney General’s Office.

The Utah Patients Coalition has, in turn, threatened a lawsuit against Drug Safe Utah and its supporters, alleging “deceptive tactics” to get people to remove signatures from the ballot initiative petition.