Group of voters asks Utah Supreme Court to strike down new medical cannabis act, reinstate Proposition 2

FILE - In this Feb. 20, 2015, file photo, Alaska Cannabis Club CEO Charlo Greene prepares to roll a joint at the medical marijuana dispensary in Anchorage, Alaska. A credit union is launching a pilot program to begin serving marijuana businesses in Alaska, giving the cash-only industry a financial option after banks shunned the industry. Credit Union 1 announced Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018, its move comes with no political or moral position. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen, File)

Several Utah voters are asking the Utah Supreme Court to restore Proposition 2, declaring a “constitutional crisis” over the Legislature’s decision to pass a bill replacing the medical cannabis initiative.

The political issues committee, The People’s Right, claims in a motion filed Monday that the state Legislature overstepped by approving the Prop 2 replacement in a special session earlier this month. The group is also frustrated that, because the bill passed by more than a two-thirds majority, the state contends the act is immune from a challenge at the ballot box.

Steven Maxfield, a Kanosh resident who previously has led fights for access to government records, is chairing The People’s Right and is filing the motion along with a couple of other Utah voters. The listed defendants are Gov. Gary Herbert, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, the state’s election director and members of the Utah Legislature.

The plaintiffs are asking the state’s highest court to declare the special session unconstitutional and vacate the bill passed by lawmakers, reinstating Prop 2.

The ballot initiative had been in effect for only two days when lawmakers voted to supplant it with the Utah Medical Cannabis Act, a measure hammered out as a compromise between Prop 2 supporters and opponents.

Connor Boyack, a medical cannabis advocate who helped design the replacement bill, said it would be bad public policy to handcuff state legislators so they could not adjust a law that they or Utah voters approved.

“It would actually be fairly problematic to permanently lock in place what voters have done because, often, issues are overlooked and there are unintended consequences that need to be dealt with," said Boyack, who was part of the Utah Patients Coalition, the group that brought Prop 2 to the ballot.

The People’s Right also charged Cox’s office with wrongly rejecting its application seeking to bring the newly approved Utah Medical Cannabis Act to a statewide vote.

Laws that have passed by at least a two-thirds majority in the Legislature can’t be referred to voters for acceptance or rejection, Justin Lee, the state’s election director, explained in a letter. The new cannabis act did receive this level of support and is, therefore, ineligible for a referendum, he wrote.

Lee declined to comment on the specifics of the legal challenge filed by The People’s Right.