Medical marijuana opponents ask for emergency restraining order blocking it from the ballot

SALT LAKE CITY — Opponents of the medical cannabis ballot initiative have asked a federal judge to issue an emergency restraining order blocking Lt. Governor Spencer Cox from putting it before voters in November.

In court filings obtained by FOX 13 late Friday, the Coalition for a Safe and Healthy Utah, which is made up of the Utah Medical Association, the Eagle Forum, the Sutherland Institute, and law enforcement groups including the Utah Chiefs of Police Association, asked U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups to issue an emergency injunction. They argued marijuana remains illegal under federal and state law.

“Moreover, legalizing whole-plant marijuana in any form – even for ‘medicinal’ purposes – would undoubtedly increase its use among Utahns, especially young Utahns. In so doing, such legalization would leave in its wake an ocean of human lives shattered by addiction, and a mountain of additional costs to be borne by Utah’s taxpayers and families,” Coalition attorney Blake Ostler wrote.

The motion for injunction extensively laid out the coalition’s arguments against the ballot initiative, and argued it would be asking voters to approve something already illegal.

“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 statute. Plaintiffs benefit substantially from Utah’s existing laws and culture that restrict consumption of alcohol,” Ostler wrote, referencing Utah’s strict liquor laws.

Lt. Governor Spencer Cox’s attorneys pushed back on Friday, calling the coalition’s request “an unorthodox pre-enactment challenge to an initiative that has yet to be put to a vote.”

Assistant Utah Attorney General David Wolf asked the judge to throw out the emergency restraining order request.

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