Governor Herbert refuses to help medical marijuana opponents fight off ballot initiative

FILE - Governor Gary Herbert met with Proposition 2 opponents on Aug. 1 and refused calls to hold a special session to oppose the medical marijuana referendum. (File Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) -- Governor Gary Herbert met with Proposition 2 opponents on Aug. 1 and refused calls to hold a special session to oppose the medical marijuana referendum.

Although he expressed opposition to Proposition 2 publicly, Herbert declined to use his office and administration resources to help marshal a campaign against it. Herbert rejected the proposals for access to his campaign's email list and contacts, calling a special session of the legislature to pass laws that would prevent Proposition 2 from taking effect and using executive officers and agencies to speak out against it.

The governor's spokesman Paul Edwards said the request to use executive agencies to help the campaign against Proposition 2 was the most alarming request to Hebert's office.

“It’s the policy of this administration that those resources are for informational purposes only," Edwards said.

Executive agencies are meant to implement laws and initiatives after they pass, according to Edwards.

“There shouldn’t be any prior bias represented," Edwards said.

Since the meeting, the governor's office reached out to its various executive agencies to clarify that its officers should not be involved in any political efforts for or against any initiative; however, offering their professional opinion in appropriate settings such as in front of the legislature.

Edwards also clarified Herbert's stance on medical marijuana.

“[Gov. Herbert] supports efforts to make truly medicinal marijuana available to people in the state,” Edwards said. But, Herbert also believes that Proposition 2 “presents too many complications.”

The governor's spokesman said Herbert believes that Proposition 2 violates federal law and that it could lead to the legalization of recreational marijuana, which he opposes. He’s more supportive of legislative efforts to provide medical marijuana, rather than through ballot measures.

The Coalition for a Safe and Healthy Utah, who did business as Drug Safe Utah, dropped its previous lawsuit on July 2 to keep the medical marijuana initiative off the ballot.

Earlier this month, Drug Safe Utah filed a new lawsuit, saying that legalizing medical marijuana in Utah is unconstitutional because it violated the freedom of religion, since members of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints have a "strict adherence to a code of health which precludes the consumption and possession of mind-altering drugs, substances and chemicals, which includes cannabis and its various derivatives."

According to the Associated Press, BYU political science professor David Magleby said the medical marijuana ballot initiative is at "50-50 odds" when it comes to winning.

If the new lawsuit doesn't win, Utah voters will see the medical marijuana initiative on November's ballot. If it does, people with medical approval can't smoke marijuana but instead would be limited to edible and topical forms, such as candy, lotions or balms, along with e-cigarette oils.

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