Only 3 months after lawmakers made some significant changes to voter approved Prop 2, Utah medical marijuana advocates have achieved a small victory in their lawsuit against the state. The lawsuit was filed by Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education (TRUCE), the Epilepsy Association of Utah, and Nate and Shalyce Kizerian earlier this year.
The decision was handed down by U.S. Magistrate Judge Dustin Pead who denied a motion to dismiss the lawsuit by the Utah Attorney General’s Office. Additionally he granted the plaintiff’s request to send the case back to state court.
Early negotiations between Utah Patients Coalition and Libertas Institute, and Prop 2 opponents Utah Medical Association and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were unsuccessful. This lead to the lawsuit that argues that Utah legislators ignored the will of the voters and enacted legislation that violated federal drug law.
The case was sent to the federal court to find out whether or not the new legislation did indeed violate federal drug law. However, Utah state lawmakers acted preemptively to remove a clause requiring local health departments to distribute cannabis to qualifying medical marijuana patients.
Prosecutors were concerned that government workers at the health department would be subject to federal prosecution under this statute. Once this was removed from the law by legislators, the Utah Attorney General agreed the case should be sent back to state court, but simultaneously filed for a dismissal on the federal level.
Judge Pead was very specific in his ruling saying, “The court agrees that Defendants’ strategy is questionable. Nonetheless, Plaintiffs also present contrary positions. Plaintiffs argue the Controlled Substance Act (CSA), … preempts the changes made to the Utah Medical Cannabis Act. The CSA, however, also ‘prohibits the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of any marijuana.' Thus, the CSA runs counter to Plaintiffs own objectives in the suit against the State of Utah.”
So now the case, will head back to the state court system as Utah medical marijuana advocates continue to fight for the will of the voters to be implemented. The plaintiffs were also hoping to be awarded attorney fees for the federal court hearing but Judge Pead denied this request.
President of the Epilepsy Association of Utah, Doug Rice was encouraged by the federal win. “I’m glad the court sees there is merit in our complaint regarding the actions of our legislature and governor. We still feel we have enough evidence of legislative wrongdoing to prevail in state court,” he explained.