Utah says no collusion with LDS Church over medical cannabis initiative

Posted at 5:06 PM, May 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-02 19:44:07-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah Attorney General's Office is asking a judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by medical cannabis advocates over a bill that replaced voter-approved Proposition 2.

In the filing, obtained by FOX 13, the state essentially argues The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not dictate what the Utah State Legislature does.

After voters approved Prop. 2, which allowed medical cannabis in the state of Utah, the legislature convened in a special session to replace it with their own bill. The legislation, negotiated with input from legislative leaders, Prop. 2 sponsors, and the LDS Church, rolled back some aspects of the citizen ballot initiative.

Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education (TRUCE) and the Epilepsy Association of Utah sued, arguing the state overrode the will of the voters and accused the legislature of acting at the behest of the LDS Church.

The attorney general's office argued the legislature was well within its right to modify or replace a citizen ballot initiative.

"Plaintiffs have not alleged facts showing that the Church functioned as theocracy or in tandem with the State on an ongoing basis or that it dominated or directly interfered with state government," assistant Utah Attorney General Andrew Dymek wrote. "To the contrary, the facts alleged show that the Church, for a limited period of time, simply exercised its constitutional right to engage in free speech on a single matter of public interest (medical marijuana legislation)."

Doug Rice, the president of the Epilepsy Association of Utah, told FOX 13 on Thursday he obviously disagreed. He said while churches enjoy a First Amendment right to speak out, the LDS Church went above that.

"Lots of denominations have lobbyists walking around Capitol Hill. I’m not opposed to that at all. It’s when they’re given unfettered access to those backrooms," Rice said. "They’re able to have their members who are sitting on the state legislature act in accordance with the desires of the LDS Church and that’s what really bothers me."

Rice argued it is something everyone knows happens in the Utah State Legislature.

"Don’t lie to me about the fact that it’s happening. Just admit that’s happening and let’s move beyond this. Let’s go back to actual legislation and not theocracy," he said.

The Utah Attorney General's Office told FOX 13 it would let the court filing speak for itself. The judge has not yet ruled on the motion.

Read the filing here: