Lawsuit to block medical marijuana initiative claims measure violates Mormons’ religious freedom

Posted at 6:55 AM, Aug 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-16 20:43:07-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- A lawsuit has been filed seeking to block Proposition 2 from going on the November ballot, claiming Mormons freedom of religion rights would be infringed upon if medical marijuana were to be legal in Utah.

The lawsuit, filed late Wednesday by the Coalition for a Safe and Healthy Utah and Walter Plumb III, tries to stop Lt. Governor Spencer Cox from putting the medical marijuana ballot initiative before voters. It's the second lawsuit of its kind seeking to block Proposition 2.

"In the United States of America, members of all religions, including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints have a constitutional right to exercise their religious beliefs. This includes the right not to consort with, be around, or do business with people engaging in activities which their religion finds repugnant, and to refuse to lease their property to people engaging in activities which they deeply oppose," the lawsuit reads.

The lawsuit cites the case of a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple based on deeply held religious beliefs. It argued that forcing a Mormon property owner to rent to someone who uses cannabis would violate a property owner's religious beliefs.

"It’s not just the LDS Church, it’s any religion," Plumb said in an interview Thursday with FOX 13. "I don’t think anyone is in favor of smoking whole plant marijuana in apartments. Who is?"

Plumb, who is a major backer of opposition efforts to the medical cannabis initiative, said he was planning to seek a temporary restraining order. He was already amending the lawsuit to drop the coalition and Drug Safe Utah, and add a new group being formed called "Truth About Prop. 2."

Plumb acknowledged the religious freedom argument is new, but decided to include it after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on religious freedom in the cake shop case.

"I am a Christian and I’m against this. I’m against marijuana, I’m against whole plant marijuana," he said. "I’m not against the extracts such as CBD oil that may help people for the FDA approved marijuana products."

The lawsuit was first reported Wednesday night in the Salt Lake Tribune, which is a news-sharing partner with FOX 13.

The Utah Patients Coalition, which is sponsoring Proposition 2, called the lawsuit offensive.

"To call these medical patients repugnant, these people that are in some of the most dire and desperate medical situations in their lives, we find distasteful," said DJ Schanz, the group's executive director.

Schanz said the argument was something he'd never seen before.

"The majority of LDS members support our ballot initiative so for them to cloak themselves in this self-righteousness they have that they can’t support this because of their LDS beliefs, I think is extremely, unnecessarily divisive," he told FOX 13.

Schanz said his group was planning to intervene in the lawsuit.

Lt. Governor Spencer Cox's office said he would not comment on the pending litigation.

The LDS Church declined to comment on the lawsuit when contacted by FOX 13 on Thursday. The faith has expressed concerns about the medical marijuana ballot initiative in the past.

Read the lawsuit here (refresh the page if it doesn't immediately load):