Governor, legislature ask Utah Supreme Court to reject emergency petition over medical marijuana ballot initiative

Posted at 2:47 PM, Dec 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-20 16:47:53-05

SALT LAKE CITY — Governor Gary Herbert and members of the Utah State Legislature are asking the Utah Supreme Court to reject an emergency petition filed over the bill that replaced Proposition 2, the voter-approved medical marijuana ballot initiative.

In separate filings, the Utah Attorney General’s Office and the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel argue that lawmakers acted within their authority to replace Prop. 2.

“In short, initiatives are not amendment-proof, and legislatively amended initiatives are not an exception to the constitutional limits on referenda,” assistant Utah Attorney General Stanford Purser wrote.

Lawmakers argued that they were immune from lawsuits.

“Legislative immunity protects legislators from both individual liability and the
burden of defending a lawsuit. Legislative immunity under the Speech or Debate Clause is an important safeguard of legislative independence within the framework of a separation of powers,” wrote Erin Weeks, the attorney for the legislature.

A newly formed group calling itself “The People’s Right” filed an emergency writ with the Utah Supreme Court seeking to overturn the legislature’s vote to replace Prop. 2 with a bill that implemented a compromise medical cannabis program. In the alternative, they seek a “referendum on the referendum,” or another vote by citizens on what the legislature did.

The Lt. Governor’s Office has rejected their petitions, finding that more than two-thirds of the legislature approved it and some of the referendum sponsors didn’t meet voting requirements.

In a statement, The People’s Right founder Steve Maxfield criticized Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes for the filings. The Attorney General is representing the Governor, Lt. Governor and Utah State Elections Office in this case.

“TPR’s case was created by citizens with real jobs and only a few days to reasonably seek relief. We are not high-powered elitist attorneys funded by special interests. We stepped in because Reyes and others in government contemptuously refuse to serve the People,” Maxfield wrote.

This is the second legal action taken against Gov. Herbert over the bill that replaced Prop. 2 in a special session of the legislature earlier this month. Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education (TRUCE) and the Epilepsy Association of Utah filed a lawsuit challenging the vote and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ involvement in talks to craft a “compromise” bill.

Read the governor’s response to the emergency writ here (refresh the page if it doesn’t immediately load):

Read the legislature’s response here: