A “mobile pot shop” that has been rolling up to local high schools this week has been taken off the road after sparking an uproar among supporters of medical marijuana.
The truck — emblazoned with twin cannabis leaves and a message offering “free samples” to anyone over age 18 — has been raising eyebrows from Lehi to Salt Lake City as part of a campaign against Proposition 2. The group behind the tactic says it’s trying to highlight flaws baked into the medical marijuana initiative, such as a requirement for only 600 feet of separation between a dispensary and a school.
Ed Kennedy, chairman for Truth About Proposition 2, said his organization has been parking the “mobile pot shop” about 600 feet away from area high schools to illustrate how close a dispensary could be.
"If you were able to see where we parked the truck, it's a stone's throw away from the schools," Kennedy said.
But Kennedy said he had to end the truck tour — for now — because of the anger it elicited from patients and others in favor of the medical cannabis initiative.
"Can someone please pop this trucks tires?" one person wrote about a photo posted to the group's Facebook page.
Kennedy said on Tuesday and Wednesday, the truck visited Lone Peak High, in Highland, Skyridge in Lehi and West in Salt Lake City.
A paper sign covering the side of the U-Haul advertised brownies, gummies and drinks, but Kennedy said no illegal substances were hidden inside. Instead, his group was giving away cannabis-free Twinkies and Ho Hos, he said.
"It was kind of a joke because of the whole munchie thing with people who get high," Kennedy said.
The tactic did not amuse some patients who hope medical cannabis will offer them relief from pain and other symptoms.
“It’s not a joke. ... This is offensive that they’re making fun of patients like that,” said Desiree Hennessy, vice president of TRUCE Utah, a group advocating for the passage of Prop 2.
Hennessy said she called the Lone Peak police to report the “mobile pot shop” after she heard about it from a patient. She questioned the legality of advertising a Schedule I drug from the side of a box truck.
However, police told her the campaign was exercising its free speech and didn’t seem to be doing anything illegal.
On Wednesday, a resource officer at West High in Salt Lake City also checked out the truck but didn't take any further action.
Kennedy said his group had to explain the mobile shop to several police officers and alarmed parents earlier this week but were able to get their point across.
"We're trying to point out that Prop 2 isn't about helping sick people. It's about recreational use," he said.
Truth About Proposition 2, a political issues committee created in August, has received much of its funding from real estate developer Walter J. Plumb III, a longtime opponent of expanding access to medical marijuana. Drug Safe Utah, another committee opposed to the ballot initiative, has given it $50,000, according to financial disclosures.
Hennessy said Truth About Proposition 2 is waging a campaign of misinformation against the initiative. For one thing, Prop 2 is not an open door to recreational use and is full of safeguards, she said.
Dispensaries would not be giving out free samples to anyone who walked in off the street; only patients with a state-issued medical cannabis card would be eligible to procure the substance, she said. And dispensaries wouldn’t be allowed to market their products, so a box truck display would be off-limits, she noted.
Kennedy, a retired police officer from California, said he saw widespread abuse of the state’s medical cannabis program during his time on the force, and he wants to keep these problems out of Utah.