SALT LAKE CITY — As a coalition to oppose Utah's medical marijuana ballot initiative came together Thursday, some criticized and others praised the effort.
Under the proposition, people with certain illnesses would be allowed to get a medical cannabis card from their physician.
Members of the coalition opposing the initiative include the Drug Safe Utah group — which was formed to oppose Proposition 2 — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Utah Medical Association, the Episcopal Diocese of Utah, the Utah Sheriff's Association, the Utah PTA, dozens of Utah lawmakers and a host of others.
"We are firmly opposed to Proposition 2. However, we do not object to marijuana derivatives being used in medicinal form — so long as appropriate controls and safeguards are in place to ensure vulnerable populations are protected and access is limited to truly medicinal purposes," Michelle McOmber, CEO of Utah Medical Association CEO, said in a statement representing the coalition.
In addition to the church's involvement in the group, Latter-day Saint members also received an email Thursday from the church asking them to vote against the initiative.
Some supporters of the initiative took issue with the coalition's opposition to the measure.
Utah Patients Coalition
In a Thursday Facebook post, the Utah Patients Coalition, the primary group touting Proposition 2, focused solely on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its involvement with the initiative. The group said the church's request that medical marijuana be allowed, as prescribed by a doctor and distributed by a pharmacy, is an "impossible scenario."
“Prop. 2 is the best chance of providing access to patients with heavy safeguards and protections to minimize abuse,” the group also said in the post. “It is the compassionate approach, and it’s an actual proposal, unlike the non-proposal offered up at today’s press conference.”
In a statement, representatives for Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education, or TRUCE, said they were “incredibly disappointed” by Thursday’s press conference. TRUCE members said they did not take lightly the opposition comments at the event.
“No answers were given today and no alternative was offered to the ballot initiative,” the TRUCE statement said. “What was offered was more talk, more negotiations and more falsehoods. … Utah patients have been watching for 20 years now as patients in other states safely and successfully use it to relieve their suffering. We deserve this opportunity as well.”
Members of TRUCE literally turned their backs Thursday as Nathan Frodsham, a former vice president of the TRUCE patient group, spoke out against the ballot initiative at the press conference, according to the Deseret News.
"I think this is a much better, safer pathway forward that will ensure doctor support, that will ensure the patients get the care they need and a lot more," Frodsham said, according to the Deseret News.
The Utah House Democrats sent out a statement Thursday that didn’t explicitly endorse legalizing medicinal marijuana, but stressed the importance of letting the voters decide.
“The people of Utah should be allowed to decide whether or not this particular medical marijuana initiative goes too far,” the statement said.
The House Democrats also said that many Utahns feel the legislature has had its chance to address the issue of medical marijuana, but has taken too long.
“A significant number of Utahns support more choices in treating debilitating pain and other medical issues,” the statement said. “We appreciate concerns that it is not perfect, but if Proposition 2 passes, then the legislature will still have the ability to modify and improve the legislation in the months and years afterward."
Salt Lake Chamber
On the opposite end of things, Derek Miller, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber and Downtown Alliance, said in a statement that the chamber urges the public to vote ‘No’ on Proposition 2.
Miller, also part of the coalition, said the state legislature should opt for a legal framework that would allow for proper treatment of patients, safety for the public and the ability to address any potential impacts to businesses.
“We recognize with compassion those who find relief from pain and suffering through medical cannabis treatment,” Miller said. “We also recognize the serious responsibility to protect the welfare and safety of the public and business community in regards to legalizing marijuana.”
Governor Gary Herbert and Lt. Governor Spencer Cox oppose the initiative, according to Drug Safe Utah’s website. Herbert supports the coalition, according to the Deseret News, and will be pursuing opposition to the ballot measure on his own.
U.S. Reps. Chris Stewart and Rob Bishop are members of the coalition opposing Proposition 2, as is U.S. Senate candidate Mitt Romney. U.S. Sens. Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch aren’t listed as opposers of the measure, and neither are U.S. Reps. Mia Love or John Curtis.
Lee spokesman Conn Carroll told the Deseret News that Lee, "does not weigh in" on state ballot initiatives. "It's up to the people of Utah to make the decision on this medical marijuana initiative," he said.
Curtis' staff said he was in South America on government business and would make a statement in the coming days. Hatch and Love did not respond to requests for comment, according to the Deseret News.