A group suing Utah’s lieutenant governor to stop him from adding to the November ballot a measure that could legalize medical marijuana filed additional court documents Friday, which they hope will halt the process.
Attorneys for Drug Safe Utah on Friday filed a motion for an emergency injunction, arguing the court should block Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox from approving the cannabis measure and placing it on the ballot, because the plant is illegal and because doing so would cause irreparable harm to the plaintiffs — Drug Safe Utah and three state residents — and all Utahns, they say.
“While all Americans are free to advocate that they or others should be allowed to violate federal drug prohibitions, they are not free to use the taxpayer-paid ballot as a platform for such advocacy, especially when the initiative contradicts federal and state constitutional law and state statutes,” Drug Safe Utah attorney Blake T. Ostler wrote.
The motion came as part of a lawsuit filed against Cox in May, which also seeks to block the initiative from appearing on the November ballot.
Attorneys representing both sides of the case didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment Friday evening.
In a response that same day, attorneys for Cox, whom the group is suing in his official capacity, said the plaintiffs’ motion was predicated on an incorrect interpretation of the law and that injunctive relief wasn’t appropriate.
“Unable to establish any of the preliminary injunction factors, [p]laintiffs instead argue that the [i]nitiative is bad policy. But the people of Utah, through the initiative process and their duly elected representatives in the Utah legislature, get to decide what policy is best, not the [p]laintiffs,” wrote Utah Assistant Attorney General David Wolf, “especially on matters of health and safety.”
Much of Drug Safe Utah’s 37-page motion fixates on the idea that, if passed, the measure would be at odds with standing laws, such as the federal Controlled Substances Act and parts of the Utah Constitution. It contends that those laws pre-empt — or override — Utah’s ability to create laws that contradict them.
Attorneys in the motion also argue that in approving a measure in opposition to standing, pre-emptive laws, Utah citizens would waste time and money and open themselves up to health risks and increasing rates of crime and car crashes.
In a response, lawyers for Cox said the court should deny the motion because Drug Safe Utah’s arguments aren’t supported by applicable law (for example, they say the Controlled Substances Act doesn’t pre-empt the medical marijuana initiative) and that placing a measure on the ballot won’t cause any irreparable harm or injury.
“First, at this point, there is no imminent or certain risk of the enforcement of a preempted law. The Initiative is not a law and is not imminently about to become law. And it is far from certain the Initiative will ever become law,” Wolf wrote.
While Gov. Gary Herbert, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Utah Medical Association and other conservative groups oppose the measure, polls have shown that about 76 percent of Utahns either strongly support or somewhat support the initiative.