Medical marijuana opponents asked for Utah governor’s help to fight ballot initiative. He refused.

Posted at 7:07 AM, Aug 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-20 20:23:34-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Opponents of the medical cannabis ballot initiative met with Gov. Gary Herbert with a big agenda: they were organizing against Proposition 2 and raising money.

They wanted him to direct state agencies to vocally oppose the initiative and give access to his donor list, according to an email shared with FOX 13, and to possibly call a special session to shut the initiative down.

Gov. Herbert refused.

“He made clear to that coalition that while he remains opposed to the initiative because of how it conflicts with federal law, that he has no plans to call a special session to try to preempt the initiative,” Herbert’s spokesman, Paul Edwards, told FOX 13 in a statement confirming the Aug. 1 meeting.

“He also made clear that state agencies have been directed to take a neutral position on Proposition 2—although they are a resource for factual information and informed professional opinion on issues related to public safety, public health and costs, they are not permitted to side with either the advocates or opponents of Proposition 2.”

Those on the email included Jim Jardine, an attorney who has served on a public affairs committee for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, Jardine told FOX 13 he was there in his capacity as a member of the group Drug Safe Utah, formed to oppose the medical marijuana ballot initiative.

Michelle McOmber of the Utah Medical Association and Walter Plumb III, a financial backer of opposition efforts, were also included.

“From my perspective, we went there to talk to him about the status of what we were doing, what our plans were,"Jardine said. "We thought he’d want to know. We raised some coordination with him, but ultimately, we decided to coordinate on our own."

Plumb has filed a lawsuit against Lt. Governor Spencer Cox, seeking to block him from putting Prop. 2 on the ballot. Among the claims, that medical marijuana would infringe upon the religious freedom of LDS faithful would find cannabis “repugnant” and may not want to rent property to someone who uses it.

DJ Schanz, the director of the Utah Patients Coalition, which is sponsoring Prop. 2, said the governor made the right decision, and hoped this would be the end of efforts to stop voters from deciding it in November.

"Stop trying political parlor tricks to deny people their right to vote on this issue," he told FOX 13 on Monday.

Unless the lawsuit succeeds, Prop. 2 would go before voters in November.