Unusual Techniques Emerge in the Medical Marijuana Legalization Fight of Utah

Strange Tactics Emerge in Utah’s Medical Marijuana Legalization Fight

“We’re talking to voters…about the Utah Cannabis Act,” she started, before dropping her voice for dramatic effect. “Were you aware that what you signed wasn’t (for) marijuana. It was cannabis.

‘Did you know that what you signed wasn’t for marijuana? It was for cannabis.’

The resident paused. She fumbled with her cell phone. It was tilted sideways, apropos it seemed for this conversation she had been recording at her front door.

The voter had signed a request for its Utah Medical Cannabis Act, a proposed November 2018 ballot initiative that would legalize a medical marijuana market in the conservative state by permitting up to 15 dispensaries, including up to eight in Salt Lake City. They would be allowed to sell cannabis buds and oils, the latter for heating in dry herb vaporizers. The initiative would ban the sale of smokable joints.

Signature Removal Campaign

Utah Patients Coalition, a medical cannabis advocacy group with campaign contributions from the Marijuana Policy Project, announced in April that it had filed 200,000 signatures to qualify the initiative. The workplace of Utah Lt. Gov.  Spencer J. Cox has since unofficially verified over 155,000 signatures. If he certifies that at least 113,143 are properly registered Utah voters, the measure goes to the ballot.

‘People are sending canvassers out to lie. That’s very concerning to us’

Desiree Hennessy, director of community lobbying, TRUCE

But now Utah cannabis advocates charge that door-to-door canvassers are participating in a disinformation campaign to convince voters to sign paperwork authorizing removal of their signatures from initiative petitions to hopes of keeping the step from qualifying. Tensions continue to mount in Utah’s cannabis political battle.

The alleged tactics of anti-initiative canvassers, including in the shaky video now being widely shared by initiative supporters, have stoked a public relations backlash against the Utah Medical Association.

Utah Medical Group Behind It?

The Medical Association recently unveiled an anti-initiative campaign called — Medication Safe Utah — to convince voters to withdraw their support. But now that marijuana isn’t cannabis movie is being widely lampooned by initiative backers to discredit opponents and their tactics to reverse voter support for the measure.

In the almost 12-minute clip, the voter seems stunned by what the canvasser has to say on her door step. The canvasser claims to be acting on behalf of the Medical Association in addition to the local county clerk’s office. She also says she’s a medical student from North Carolina who is volunteering to defeat the initiative.

The canvasser says the petitions were gathered. Then she goes on to say that the state furtively rewrote the initiative — so that it doesn’t even say what voters think it does. She alternatively argues that it would imprison cancer patients for smoking cannabis or that the step isn’t needed for personal medical marijuana usage.

Then there is the canvasser’s opening and final yells — suggesting that voters are being hoodwinked because, somehow, marijuana isn’t cannabis:

“We’re being told that the request I have that indicates that you signed…is a marijuana bill,” she wraps up. “But there is no such thing on the ballot for a marijuana bill — there’s a difference between marijuana and cannabis.

“…We’re just doing our job and just ensuring you understand that. ”

In the movie, the voter appears to break off the conversation and shut the door.

“I don’t know anything about it anymore, but I appreciate your time,” she tells the canvasser. She won’t sign the form to eliminate her signature from the initiative petition.

The movie was widely shared on social media by a Utah cannabis advocacy group, TRUCE (Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education.)

‘We’re Really Concerned’

“We’re really worried,” Desiree Hennessy, TRUCE’s director of community lobbying told Leafly. That’s very concerning to us. ”

Hennessy, who spoke to the woman who made the movie, said her group has talked to several voters who got odd pitches from paid canvassers trying to get them to drop their support. She said the anti-initiative canvassers wore “Medication Safe Utah” buttons for the Utah Medical Association campaign.

The Association’s vice president of communications, Mark Fotheringham, told Leafly that the canvasser in the movie — whoever she was — wasn’t operating off of any script authorized by Utah Medical Association or Drug Safe Utah.

“This video is circulating of a woman whose face is never revealed,” Fotheringham said. “She doesn’t represent the Medical Association or anything linked to the UMA. Her rambling statements have nothing to do with the talking points Medication Safe Utah supplied to legitimate people.

“We have gone through this many times, to try to figure out who this is, to ask her to stop disrupting our campaign. ”

‘Dear Neighbor’ Letters

As part of its trademark removal campaign, Medication Safe Utah is also sending out “Dear Neighbor” letters targeting voters who signed initiative petitions. One letter, obtained by Leafly, warns residents of Cache County, Utah, including the town of Logan, that lots of people who signed the petitions were duped into doing so.

“We are a group of your neighbors and we’re writing today because your name is on the lieutenant governor’s list of registered voters who signed the petition to legalize marijuana under the ‘Utah Medical Cannabis Act’ initiative,” the missive reads. It goes on say: “The marijuana initiative is a 28-page legal record pushed by a national marijuana industry group,” declaring: “Most people signed the initiative based on whatever petitions workers told them in a brief conversation. In actuality, some people whose names appear on the request don’t recall signing it whatsoever. ”

In type, cannabis legalization advocates are blasting out photos on social media of talking points supposedly given to a anti-initiative canvassers.

In one such photo, a script for someone claiming to be with the Utah Medical Association, suggests urging young voters to remove their names from petitions because — if the initiative passes — “you can have weed, but it still would be totally illegal to smoke it. ”

The script’s pitch to elderly voters suggested that “just about anybody would be able to get a (medical cannabis) card and not only grow their own crops but store a much as they want in their house. Drug trafficking would skyrocket. ”

Medication Safe Utah: Not Us

Both the Medical Association and Drug Safe Utah disavowed the script, saying none of the talking points were authorized.

Fotheringham said the UMA’s fundamental opposition to the initiative focus on its own feel that the medicinal measure is a pay for legalizing recreational cannabis use in Utah. He says that the measure lacks clear rules for physicians recommending cannabis and, thus, is a political Trojan Horse to pave the way for eventual legal adult usage, such as in neighboring Nevada and Colorado.

“We’re concerned about a lot of things,” Fotheringham. “This initiative grants complete immunity to physicians and others who recommend marijuana. We just think this is an open invitation to unauthorized practices. ”

The Medical Association opposition to the initiative is buttressed by the Mormon church, which declared: “The proposed Utah marijuana initiative would undermine the health and safety of Utah communities. ”

High or Not, a Fantastic Idea

Perhaps the most pointed — and colorful — opposition has come in the Next Generation Freedom Fund, a conservative Utah policy group. “The truth is that the Utah Medical Marijuana Initiative is a ruse being perpetrated by Utah libertarians and radicalized potheads across the nation,” composed Next Generation president Paul Mero at a op-ed that spared few pot puns in blasting the step.

Opponents paint the medical marijuana initiative as ‘a ruse being perpetrated by Utah libertarians and radicalized potheads.’

“The D.C. lobbyists at the Marijuana Policy Project, old hippies at NORML and our own liberty-loving kooks…feign a non-existent morality — a pot-induced moral code that only consuming marijuana will appease,” Mero went on. “Let me be as blunt as I can: You must be high to think this initiative is a good idea. ”

One of those thinking the initiative is a good idea is Salt Lake City District Attorney Sim Gil. He broke ranks with other law enforcement officials in offering his endorsement. “This isn’t about recreational marijuana, that isn’t what I support,” he said. “But I will advocate for not criminalizing the behavior of parents, patients and family members for an act of empathy. ”

Hennessy of TRUCE said the initiative, particularly including its ban on selling joints, was written to appeal to cautious voters in a state new to cannabis politics.

“We do know we’re a very conservative state. We knew we were going to get opposition,” she said. “We tried to make a conservative ballot initiative, without a recreational pathway. It’so sad that people want to try and burn us down. ”

With the campaign to void petition signatures continuing, she added, “On hand, we’re stunned daily with what they come up with. On the other hand, we knew we would have to buckle our seat belts. ”

Published at Fri, 11 May 2018 01:53:23 +0000

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