Election complaint filed over medical marijuana ballot initiative

Posted at 4:00 PM, May 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-10 17:33:16-04

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Medical Association has filed a complaint with the state against sponsors of the medical marijuana ballot initiative, accusing them of offering money to people hired to persuade voters to remove their signatures from citizen petitions.

Drug Safe Utah, a coalition created to battle the medical marijuana ballot initiative, filed the complaint with the Lt. Governor’s Office on Tuesday. A copy of the complaint, provided to FOX 13, alleges Alex Iorg of the Utah Patients Coalition confronted Zack Romsa, who was hired by the Utah Medical Association to get people to remove signatures.

“Alex talked with Zach, and said that he had a donor, and was willing to purchase whatever signature removal forms Zach and his team had gathered. Zach responded that they had already turned in the forms. Alex asked how many forms were still on hand. Zach responded that they only had about 5. Alex said OK and walked outside,” the complaint states. “Alex came back about 5 minutes later and offered to purchase any data Zach had and offered Zach money to have Zach and the others stop gathering more signatures on the removal form.”

Read the complaint here:

The Lt. Governor’s Office, which oversees elections in Utah, said it referred the complaint to the attorney general’s office to investigate.

The Utah Patients Coalition called the complaint “nothing more than a last ditch effort to deflect from the Utah Medical Association’s fraudulent behavior in their attempt to undermine the democratic process and voter will to see medical cannabis on the ballot.”

“In an attempt to rectify the disinformation and fraud told to thousands of people in St. George, a staffer for Utah Patients Coalition, offered to buy the data collected by these admitted by the UMA ‘rogue agents,'” DJ Schanz, the head of the Utah Patients Coalition, told FOX 13 in a statement on Wednesday.

“Many of these ‘rogue agents’ were brought in from Colorado and other states. These admitted ‘rogue agents’ had been claiming to be with anything from government agencies to those who wrote the ballot initiative itself. In fact, we are still working to clarify with people the fraud that occurred and the offer is still valid to get us the data so we can work more effectively to reach and undo the damage the UMA has caused and cares little to fix.”

The Utah Patients Coalition released a video on Wednesday showing what it claims are deceptive tactics being used by people hired by Drug Safe Utah and the Utah Medical Association to get people to remove signatures. Reacting to a previous video FOX 13 broadcast on Monday, the UMA suggested some of those that may have been hired through a third-party had gone “completely rogue.”

Watch the video provided by the Utah Patients Coalition’s here:

Schanz said the woman carried a business card with the UMA’s contact information on it.

In an email responding to the video, UMA spokesman Mark Fotheringham said it was difficult to hear what exactly the woman is telling the person.

“If she is actually saying that ‘most of the signatures have been forged’ then she is saying more than UMA or DSU has ever said,” he wrote.

Fotheringham said Drug Safe Utah has assumed the majority of signatures are legitimate and county clerks would remove any deemed to be forgeries.

“It makes no sense to say signatures are forged, then campaign to have them removed,” he said. “Although, this canvasser appears more likely to be legitimate, we do not know who she is. The canvassers are supposed to be saying they are from Drug Safe Utah and are supposed to stay on-script.”

Schanz said his group was not ruling out their own complaints to the Lt. Governor’s Office.

Opponents of ballot initiatives have until May 15 to persuade people to remove their signatures from the citizen petitions. A FOX 13 analysis of validated signature totals from the Lt. Governor’s Office shows that medical cannabis has reached the threshold to qualify for the November ballot. Count My Vote (a direct primary initiative) and Medicaid expansion also appear to have met the threshold to qualify.