The Utah Patients Coalition filed a formal complaint Tuesday against Drug Safe Utah, accusing the anti-marijuana group of intentionally misleading voters about a ballot initiative that would legalize medical cannabis for patients suffering from chronic pain and certain illnesses.
The grievance alleges DSU has knowingly and repeatedly spread false information through radio ads, fliers and telephone polls, telling recipients that Proposition 2 is about recreational—not medical—cannabis, and that medical cannabis is already legal statewide.
The grievance requests the state issue a cease and desist order that would prohibit DSU from making incorrect statements and publicly sanction the organization “for its untruthful activities and order any other relief deemed appropriate by the Elections Division.”
If passed, Proposition 2 would allow patients with certain medical conditions—post-traumatic stress disorder, Crohn’s disease and autism spectrum disorder, among others—to obtain cannabis from local dispensaries over a two-week period. After Jan. 1, 2021, patients would be allowed to grow up to six cannabis plants in their homes, provided they don’t live within 100 miles of a dispensary.
Medical cannabis is not currently legal in Utah, but state legislators passed a bill in the last legislative session that grants terminally ill patients a “right to try” such treatment, provided they have six months left to live. But Jack Wilbur, information and social marketing specialist at the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, said the state is still drafting the rules related to the new law, meaning terminally ill patients have yet to benefit from the legislation.
Proposition 2 would also be much broader than the “right to try” law, allowing for people with a wider range of medical ailments to use cannabis for relief.
A report released Tuesday by utahpolicy.com says almost two-thirds of Utahns support Prop 2, down 8 percent from May, around the time The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a statement against the initiative.
The Utah Patients Coalition’s complaint says DSU’s false claims will affect how people vote come November. It also warns that some Utahns could hear DSU’s claims and believe they can’t be arrested or charged for publicly possessing medical cannabis, which “could cause irreparable harm toward someone in the public who hears and follows the claims made by DSU or its spokesperson.”
Drug Safe Utah said in a statement that Prop 2 “contains none of the traditional safeguards of medical practice; instead, it makes recreational marijuana easily accessible … Unlike prescribed medicines, there is no dosage, no required physician follow-up, no disclosure of risks. This creates an environment for recreational marijuana to flourish.”
At his monthly news conference last week at KUED Channel 7, Gov. Gary Herbert publicly come out against the push saying he’s concerned people growing plants in their homes could cause the state to “lose control” of its oversight of medical cannabis, potentially leading to recreational use. If the proposition is a go, Herbert said, lawmakers would work with the initiative’s stakeholders to improve its shortcomings, “so we get a good law.”
Reached over the phone, Alex Iorg, campaign manager with the Utah Patients Coalition, told City Weekly they filed the complaint to keep the ongoing conversation Utahns are having about medical cannabis as honest as possible. “We just don’t think it’s fair for the opposition, because they have more money, to be muddying the public debate that’s going on with these statements that have been untrue,” he said. “We want to make sure our points are heard, that patients have a voice in this, that the public gets to hear why patients need this.”