UT: Lt. Governor, Medical Marijuana Ballot Initiative Supporters Ask Judge To Toss Lawsuit

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Photo Credit: Nicholas Belton

Lt. Governor Spencer Cox and the sponsors of a ballot initiative to legalize medical cannabis in Utah are asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit over whether it can go before voters in November.

In court filings late Wednesday obtained by FOX 13, the Utah Patients Coalition asked the judge to dismiss a lawsuit against Lt. Governor Spencer Cox by the Coalition for a Safe and Healthy Utah (also known as Drug Safe Utah). The Utah Attorney General’s Office, representing the Lt. Governor also argued for its dismissal.

“Plaintiffs ask this Court to declare the Utah Medical Cannabis Act ballot initiative unconstitutional before it becomes law or is even put to a vote,” assistant Utah Attorney General David Wolf wrote. “Plaintiffs lack standing because they have not been injured by the mere presence of the Initiative on the ballot. Plaintiffs’ claims are not ripe because the voters may reject the Initiative.”

The Coalition for a Safe and Healthy Utah is suing the Lt. Governor, seeking to block him from putting medical marijuana on the November ballot. They have also argued the ballot initiative would violate federal law on marijuana. The state pushed back, noting that a lot of other states do have medical cannabis.

“Plaintiffs concede that a significant number of courts have concluded that other states’ medical marijuana initiatives are not preempted by federal law,” Wolf wrote.

Lt. Gov. Cox has already certified the ballot initiative, finding it met the threshold to qualify and the state argues he is well within his authority as chief elections officer to do so.

The Utah Patients Coalition, which gathered signatures and drafted the ballot initiative, intervened in the lawsuit. In its filing, the Utah Patients Coalition said no one has been harmed by the initiative being on the ballot and any concerns are speculation.

“The twelve paragraphs that Plaintiffs dedicate to explaining their ‘harms’ do not describe injuries at all — they are no more than fears of what could happen should the Initiative pass. These public policy considerations are more properly addressed to the legislative branch — in this case, the voting public to whom the Utah Constitution has delegated legislative power,” UPC attorney Gerald Salcido wrote.

“Plaintiffs cannot describe any actual injuries suffered because the Initiative is still only a potential law, so its placement on the ballot creates only the potential for (speculative) injuries.”

It is expected the Coalition for a Safe and Healthy Utah will respond, asking the judge to keep their lawsuit alive.

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