Opponents sue to block medical marijuana from going on the November ballot in Utah

SALT LAKE CITY — Opponents of the medical marijuana ballot initiative have filed a lawsuit to block it from going on the November ballot.

Drug Safe Utah, also listed in the lawsuit as Coalition for a Safe and Healthy Utah, sued Utah Lt. Governor Spencer Cox, making a long list of arguments about why the ballot initiative should not be approved. It also alleges he cannot approve the medical cannabis ballot initiative because it would violate federal anti-marijuana laws. FOX 13 obtained a copy of the lawsuit and a motion for an emergency restraining order on Friday.

“The individual Plaintiffs are Utah citizens, parents, and grandparents, bringing this suit to prevent the harm to Utah’s safety as well as the health of their children and grandchildren from legalization of marijuana in violation of federal law and the federal and Utah Constitutions,” the motion for an injunction states.

“Even more importantly, the Plaintiffs claim the constitutional protections of the United States and Utah Constitutions as well as of the rights conferred on them as taxpayers and voters who will be affected by the adverse effects of the Marijuana Initiative, which will increase abuse, dependency, and prevent the orderly administration of criminal drug laws and increase the number of car accidents and costs arising from adverse effects of using marijuana.”

Scroll down to read the full court filing

Drug Safe Utah’s emergency injunction request reiterates many of their complaints about the initiative. If passed, the group says, it would create “massive bureaucracy while exempting marijuana sales from taxes so that purveyors of pot reap huge profits,” blocks cities from implementing some restrictions on dispensaries, makes marijuana “easier to obtain than cigarettes” and would effectively decriminalize marijuana in Utah.

“Marijuana is a Schedule I drug that has a higher frequency of addiction than opioids and can lead to severe consequences such a permanent brain damage and psychosis. The Drug Enforcement Agency has determined that there are no reliable studies showing that marijuana has any accepted medical uses,” attorney Blake Ostler wrote in the injunction request.

Lt. Governor Cox’s office said it would not comment on the litigation. Based on a FOX 13 analysis of signatures, it appears that medical cannabis has cleared the threshold for the November ballot. However, Lt. Gov. Cox has until June 1 to determine if it qualifies and certify it.

“I know what motivates us as patients to seek a non-toxic relief using whole plant botanical cannabis, I don’t know what motivates our elected representatives, law enforcement and the Utah Medical Association to keep us from the relief we need,” Christine Stenquist, the president of Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education (TRUCE) said in a statement. “They have gone a step beyond willfully ignorant to downright aggressive. And I ask them to tell us patients exactly what motivates them to advocate for our suffering?”

The Utah Patients Coalition, which is running the initiative, was displeased with the lawsuit.

“We are dismayed at the repeated attempts to undermine and stymie the democratic process and citizen participation by the Utah Medical Association and their allies. The time for parlor tricks and political grandstanding should be over,” DJ Schanz, the group’s director, said in his own statement. “It’s time to have a robust public debate on the issue of medical cannabis and let the people of Utah have a say in their democracy and ultimately vote on this important issue.”

Drug Safe Utah has been fighting to keep the medical cannabis ballot initiative from going before voters in November. Supporters of the initiative have accused them of “deceptive tactics” in trying to persuade people to rescind their signatures from the citizen initiative petition. The Utah Patients Coalition has threatened its own lawsuit against Drug Safe Utah and the Utah Medical Association over it. Drug Safe Utah filed an election complaint accusing a Utah Patients Coalition worker of offering money to buy signature recision forms.

Both sides were subject to the ire of the Davis County Clerk earlier this week when they showed up at his office and home late at night. Drug Safe Utah sought to drop off signature removal forms late at night, while supporters sought to prevent that.

Read the request for an emergency injunction here: