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Some call Gov. Herbert’s ‘que pasa’ comment on marijuana racist; others say ‘lighten up’

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Posted at 9:55 PM, Jan 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-21 23:55:13-05

SALT LAKE CITY - Utah Governor Gary Herbert had some ideas on whether medical marijuana should be legalized in the state, but some feel he had a poor choice of words to convey that message.

"I've read the comments," said Tony Yapias, former Director of the Utah Office of Hispanic Affairs. "People say, 'throw him out! Kick him out!'"

Those comments were posted via online message boards and Twitter in response to what Herbert said on television Thursday.

"I think the discussion is now at hand, the time is nigh," Governor Herbert said of the discussion on legalizing medical marijuana. "But I'm not interested in having Dr. Feelgood out there say 'ya,ya, que pasa, here's your doobie for the day and you'll feel better.' That's probably not where I want to go."

It didn't take long for the messages to pour in online, as some in the Latino community were upset he chose to use the phrase "que pasa."

"That's super racist," one tweet read.

Another reads, "According to @Govherbert, people that smoke marijuana for the wrong reasons speak Spanish."

A call to Governor Herbert's office late Thursday was fielded by a spokesman who insisted Governor Herbert did not mean to affend anyone with his remarks, but did understand how it could have been perceived that way.

Many online thought he was making a reference from the movie "Cheech and Chong," but Governor Herbert's spokesman said it was actually a reference to a George Carlin bit. Admittedly, Herbert's team says his references may be outdated.

However, not everyone in the Latino community is upset by the remark.

"I know he didn't intend to do it with bad intention," Yapias said. "The fact remains he was trying to make a reference. Come on people. Que pasa? Lighten up."