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Summit County Council Asked To Join Lawsuit Against Utah Legislators Over Medical Marijuana Bill

Michael Fischer

The Summit County Council Wednesday was visited by representatives of the group behind last year’s Proposition 2 campaign for access to medical marijuana.

They’re asking the county to join them in their lawsuit against the bill passed by Utah legislators, which supplanted Proposition 2, and now designates local governments as marijuana distributors.

The Council heard from Christine Stenquist—the founder and Executive Director of TRUCE, which stands for Together for Responsible Use in Cannabis Education.

She said after her group made little progress with the Utah Legislature, they promoted the initiative Prop 2 last year, which she said is more of a free market model.

After its victory at the polls, lawmakers replaced it with their own medical marijuana bill, HB 3001. Stenquist said that, given federal laws against marijuana, the bill cannot be implemented.

“What the legislative body has done, and they’re aware that they have done this, they implemented the county’s and the Health Department into not only getting a program into place as far as our medical cards are concerned but you guys will be distributing a schedule one substance,” Stenquist explained. “This means that we are bumped up against preemption. For those who don't know what preemption is, basically the federal law trump's state law. So, what we have in place is something that is not implementable. The health department can and will risk losing federal funding at the risk of the state trying to be a drug cartel.”

She asked the County Council to put the issue on an agenda and solicit public input. Stenquist said she has a great many patients in the county who signed and promoted Prop 2.

“I feel that they should have at least an opportunity to share with the council how the disruption in actual access for patients is harming not only us, but our involvement in politics,” Stenquist continued. “We had 78,000 new voters in Utah. They came out not only for Proposition 2 but for prop 3 Medicaid expansion. If we now say to the community that you cannot go through an initiative process, because it doesn't mean anything anymore, we lose our voters. They stop attending and they stop engaging.”

Another plaintiff in the TRUCE lawsuit, Dr. Andrew Talbott, said he has an office at Kimball Junction, and has written over 300 cannabis recommendations for patients all over Summit County and the Wasatch Back.

“My goal really is to try to keep patients away from more dangerous therapies like opioid medications,” Talbott said. “Medical cannabis has been an incredible benefit. I've been able to see people get off of opioids completely if not cut them down in half. So, it's been fantastic.”

He added that last November, Prop 2 had its greatest margin of victory in Summit County. The House Bill is creating a big obstacle for his patients.

Stenquist said the state law is, in effect, a strategy to block access for patients.

“We're not going to de-schedule cannabis under this administration," Stenquist explained. "We can't even get other things that are more important taken care of on the federal level. So, what our governor is actually asking us to do is wait. We have 300 patients right here from Dr. Talbot. I guarantee you--I'm getting daily messages of patients who need. You can do something. You can act and be part of this lawsuit. Start saying you know what we're not going to be bullied by people who don't understand what's going on.”

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