Lawsuit Seeking Reduced Medical Marijuana Restrictions in Utah Dropped

Advocacy groups Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education (TRUCE) and the Epilepsy Association of Utah (EAU) dismissed a lawsuit challenging the Utah legislature’s decision to replace a passed ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana with a more restrictive law. The lawsuit was filed in late 2018 against Utah Governor Gary Herbert and Dr. Joseph Miner, Executive Director of Utah Department of Health.

The lawsuit was dismissed without prejudice, and with a settlement for attorney’s fees. TRUCE founder Christine Stenquist said in an interview with Salt Lake City’s FOX 13 news station the lawsuit was dropped because it was too expensive to continue. She called the decision “bittersweet” and said “the lawsuit was so much bigger than cannabis.” The plaintiffs, according to a Marijuana Business Daily article, still consider the lawsuit a victory because it aided in a decision to end plans for a state-run medical marijuana dispensary system.

After the ballot initiative, known as Proposition 2, passed with 53 percent of the vote in 2018, the legislature called a special session and created a compromise measure to replace the initiative. The compromise included conversations with backers and opponents of the initiative. The replacement allowed 14 private businesses to get licenses to sell medical marijuana, according to Marajuana Business Daily, and added more involvement from Utah government organizations.

“While this lawsuit is coming to an end, the fight for a real medical cannabis system for the state of Utah, which will meet all patient needs, continues,” Stenquist said according to Marijuana Business Daily. FOX 13 reported that Dr. Talbott, who joined as a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said there are still hurdles regarding patient caps and doctors receiving state qualifications. Talbott reported that “thousands and thousands” of Utah patients will likely not have access to cannabis for medical uses by next year.

Medical cannabis sales revenue in Utah since March of 2020 has been almost $6 million above Marijuana Business’ estimate of between $3.5 and $4.5 million for the year, with transactions growing by thousands each month.

The lawsuit was temporarily moved to the Tenth Circuit after the defendants alleged it discussed federal issues, but the appeal was later dismissed and the lawsuit was moved back to Utah’s Third District Court in Salt Lake City. 

The Utah Supreme Court dismissed another lawsuit against the same action in August of 2019, ruling that the governor and legislature had the rights to replace the ballot measure because it received over two-thirds of the vote within the Utah House and the Utah Senate.