AP

Lawsuit drops claim a church swayed medical pot changes

May 4, 2019, 9:05 AM | Updated: 7:14 pm
Photo credit, Associated Press.

By MORGAN SMITH Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Marijuana advocates dropped legal claims Friday that Utah lawmakers conspired with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to make sweeping changes to a voter-approved ballot initiative legalizing medical pot.

Their lawsuit will instead focus on an allegation that it was unconstitutional to replace a law passed by voters and raise questions about whether the changes are at odds with federal laws that still say marijuana is illegal, said Rocky Anderson, an attorney representing two advocacy groups.

If a judge agrees, the law would revert back to the version passed by voters, said Anderson, a former Salt Lake City mayor.

The announcement comes amid divisions over marijuana legalization and church overreach in Utah.

The state attorney general argued in a recent court filing that the church did not influence an agreement that lawmakers passed to legalize the drug but scale down qualifying medical conditions. Sean Reyes also said church leaders were exercising free speech by lobbying people to oppose the initiative as it appeared on the ballot.

“By calling upon the Legislature to find an appropriate solution and expressing the ‘hope’ for a special session, the church was neither dominating the state nor interfering with its functions,” state attorneys wrote in the April 22 court filing. “The church was simply expressing its views and desires on a matter of public interest, as any person or group has the right to do.”

The group Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education, or TRUCE, and the Epilepsy Association of Utah sued the state in December to block a compromise that legislative leaders, church officials and proposition sponsors crafted before the November election and passed after voters legalized medical marijuana.

The deal became law earlier this year. It bans many marijuana edibles, prevents people from growing marijuana if they live far from a dispensary and makes fewer medical conditions eligible for treatment with pot.

Christine Stenquist, executive director and founder of TRUCE, said the changes would make it “near impossible” for patients to access medical marijuana, pushing many to purchase the drug in the black market.

The groups initially accused the church of unconstitutional domination and interference in a process that led the ballot measure to be gutted, but they have since dropped those allegations from the lawsuit.

The Utah-based faith has stood behind the work it did to help create the compromise that it considers a safer medical marijuana program. Latter-day Saints have long frowned on marijuana use because of a key church health code called the “Word of Wisdom,” which prohibits the use of alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs.
Church leaders declined to comment Friday through spokesman Doug Anderson.

About two-thirds of the state’s residents belong to the church, along with nearly nine in 10 members of the Legislature and Republican Gov. Gary Herbert.

Today’s Top Stories

AP

An uprooted tree, toppled by strong winds from the outer bands of Hurricane Ian, rests in a parking...
CURT ANDERSON Associated Press

Ian makes landfall in southwest Florida as Category 4 storm

About 2.5 million people had been ordered to evacuate the area before the storm hit the coast on Wednesday with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph (241 kph).
1 day ago
The White House to ask for less money to fund border wall...
ACACIA CORONADO and GISELA SALOMON Associated Press

Increase in Venezuelan migration is felt across US

Last month, Venezuelans surpassed Guatemalans and Hondurans to become the second-largest nationality stopped at the U.S. border after Mexicans.
3 days ago
In Iran, protests have led to violent clashes between citizens and security forces. Protesters pict...
The Associated Press

At least 9 killed as Iran protests over woman’s death spread

The scope of Iran's ongoing unrest, the worst in several years, still remains unclear as protesters in more than a dozen cities.
6 days ago
U.S. Capitol pictured. The House just voted on an election law...
MARY CLARE JALONICK Associated Press

House passes election law overhaul in response to Jan. 6

The bill, which is similar to bipartisan legislation moving through the Senate, would overhaul an arcane 1800s-era statute known as the Electoral Count Act
7 days ago
Trump pictured. A lawsuit against Trump was just filed in new york...
Associated Press

NY attorney general sues Donald Trump and his company

Attorney General Letitia James' lawsuit is the culmination of the Democrat's three-year civil investigation of Trump and the Trump Organization.
8 days ago
el helicoide caracas...
RODRIQUE NGOWI, GISELA SALOMON and CLAUDIA TORRENS Associated Press

Surprise is key part of migrant travel from Florida, Texas

EDGARTOWN, Mass. (AP) — The chief executive of Martha’s Vineyard Community Services was wrapping up work when she looked outside to see 48 strangers at her office with luggage, backpacks and red folders that included brochures for her organization. The Venezuelan migrants who were flown to the wealthy Massachusetts island from San Antonio on Wednesday […]
10 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
large group of friends tohether in a park having fun...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

What differentiates BYU’s MBA program from other MBA programs

Commitment to service is at the heart of BYU’s MBA program, which makes it stand out among other MBA programs across the country.
a worker with a drill in an orange helmet installs a door in the house...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

Home improvement tip: Increase the value of your home by weatherproofing doors

Make sure your home is comfortable before the winter! Seasonal maintenance keeps your home up to date. Read our tips on weatherproofing doors.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
A paper reading IRS, internal revenue service is pictured...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Lawsuit drops claim a church swayed medical pot changes