SALT LAKE CITY — (KUTV) — A lawsuit now challenges state changes to voter-approved Prop 2, the medical marijuana initiative, which lawmakers altered and Gov. Herbert signed — just two days after the proposition took effect.
It calls the Legislature’s passage of the Utah Medical Cannabis Act, dubbed a “compromise” bill, an “unconstitutional violation” of the “right of the people to directly pass legislation through the initiative process,” and accused the LDS Church of “domination and interference” in the back-and-forth over medical marijuana.
The suit asks a court to block the compromise measure, and reinstate Prop 2 as Utah law.
“Is this lawsuit a long shot?” 2News asked Christine Stenquist, leader of the pro Prop2 group TRUCE, and who uses marijuana to ease the pain from a brain tumor.
“I think anytime you challenge the government, it’s a long shot,” she said. “It may be a long shot, but it’s definitely one that has to be done.”
She’s a plaintiff in the case, as is Doug Rice, head of the Utah Epilepsy Association. His adult daughter suffers from dangerous seizures multiple times a day. Rice said lawmakers ignored patients in the compromise.
“We’re in uncharted terrain here,” Paul Cassell, University of Utah law professor, former federal judge, and ex-prosecutor said. “I think it’s good to have this lawsuit filed, but I don’t think it’s going to ultimately succeed.”
Cassell pointed to Article VI of the Utah Constitution that gives voters power to “initiate any desired legislation and cause it to be submitted to the people.”
“So the Constitution allows the voters to pass laws by initiative,” he said. “But it doesn’t prohibit the Legislature from then going in and changing it.”
A spokesman for the LDS Church said it does not have a statement on the new suit, but earlier it said it worked “with medical professionals, law enforcement, educators and many other groupsto seek the best for the people of Utah, to provide relief from pain and suffering, especially where children are concerned.”
The Utah Attorney General’s Office, which will defend the state, said the suit “raises important constitutional issues,” but also asserted “the Legislature does have the power to create, repeal or amend all laws (including laws passed by ballot initiatives.)”
Named as defendants: Gov. Herbert and Dr. Joseph Miner, executive director of the Utah Department of Health.
The attorney for Stenquist and Rice is Rocky Anderson, former Salt Lake City mayor. He said he will request an expedited hearing on the case, and expects it will be ultimately decided by the Utah Supreme Court.