Two groups representing Utah patients are suing the state legislature over its replacement of a voter-backed medical cannabis initiative with a weaker bill, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
The groups, the Epilepsy Association of Utah (EAU) and Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education (TRUCE), say the Utah legislature “abridged the rights of voters” in an effort to appease the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
TRUCE had previously promised to sue if the voter-backed Proposition 2 was not passed into law as-written. The legislature nonetheless replaced Proposition 2 with the Utah Medical Cannabis Act (UMCA) on Monday.
“In … direct contravention of the expressed will of the People, … the Legislature, at the behest of the Church and as a result of the Church’s domination and interference, voted to dramatically undermine core purposes of Proposition 2 and the Initiative statute by radically amending, and essentially replacing, the Initiative statute with the passage of [the Utah Medical Cannabis Act], which deprives, reduces, and unreasonably burdens access to medical cannabis.” — Excerpt from the lawsuit filed by TRUCE and EAU
The UMCA was the result of negotiations between previous supporters of Proposition 2 — including the Utah Patients Coalition and the Libertas Institute — the Chuch of Latter-day Saints, and Utah state lawmakers. Advocates said they agreed to the compromise in order to prevent the legislature from gutting the measure entirely.
Technically, church meddling in legal procedures is illegal under the Utah state constitution. Says the constitution: “There shall be no union of Church and State, nor shall any church dominate the State or interfere with its functions.” However, while 62.9 percent of Utah residents may report as Mormon, a disproportionate 87.5 percent of lawmakers in the state are Mormon.
The Church of Latter-day Saints has not yet commented on the lawsuit, though previous comments and emails to TRUCE suggest they will fight the suit. Additionally, according to an email provided by TRUCE, the Church plans to fund their battle with 5-10 million dollars, “raised from wealthy members of the Church.”
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) has also not yet commented on the issue.
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