As election season approaches, the battle is heating up over Utah’s Proposition 2, a ballot initiative to legalize medical cannabis. A powerful coalition of anti-legalization groups including the Utah Medical Association and Drug Safe Utah have drawn aside the LDS Church to launch a coordinated campaign to tank Prop. 2. Throughout, proponents of medical cannabis legalization have accused opponents of spreading misinformation and misleading Utah voters about the measure. And today, they took their criticism to the next level, filing an official election complaint over Drug Safe Utah’s latest radio ad opposing Prop. 2.
Drug Safe Utah Airs False and Misleading Radio Ad About Prop. 2, Group Claims
Drug Safe Utah’s radio ad begins by telling listeners about an “important message about Proposition 2”. At the start, we hear a voice who identifies himself as Dr. Bill Hamilton. Hamilton is the President of the Utah Medical Association, an active and vocal opponent of medical cannabis legalization. The ad does not identify Hamilton’s affiliation.
Over a melancholic background of piano music, Hamilton begins by telling voters that Proposition 2, literally a “Medical Marijuana Initiative” isn’t actually about medical cannabis, but recreational use. Then Dr. Hamilton says medical marijuana is already legal in Utah, that doctors can prescribe it and patients can buy it over the counter.
Here, however, Hamilton’s statements are somewhat true, but also somewhat misleading. Indeed, Utah did pass a “right to try” bill for terminally ill patients to seek non-FDA approved treatments, including medical cannabis. Utah was also the first state to legalize low-THC CBD oil for intractable epilepsy without legalizing any other form of medical cannabis. Because CBD oil can come from hemp, a patient could obtain it “over the counter” in a health store or pharmacy. Utah also permits physicians to prescribe cannabis-based drugs with FDA approval, like Epidiolex.
In the ad, Hamilton tries to paint these limited measures as legalized medical cannabis, and anything new as the start of a “recreational drug industry.”
Hamilton talks about Prop. 2 legalizing the “full plant” and creating “a new industry of grow houses and pot shop dispensaries selling edible marijuana with unregulated, high levels of the dangerous drug THC.”
The ad presents licensed cannabis cultivation and dispensaries as incompatible with the medical use of cannabis. Prop. 2 ultimately “goes too far,” the ad claims, “creating a recreational drug industry in Utah.”
Medical Cannabis Advocates File Official Complaint Against Drug Safe Utah’s Latest Ad
For the Utah Patients Coalition, the ad was the last straw. And today, the group filed an official election complaint against Drug Safe Utah. The complaint specifically accuses DSU of publishing false statements “that will affect how people vote” for Proposition 2 in November.
The Utah Patients Coalition zeroed in on Dr. Hamilton’s first claim in particular. The claim about Prop. 2 being about “recreational use,” not medical use. In response to the complaint, DSU doubled down, accusing the marijuana industry of shaping Prop. 2 and alleging it lacks “traditional safeguards of medical practice.”
Utah officials are still reviewing the complaint and have not yet issued any decisions regarding the ad. The latest polls also show that two-thirds of Utah voters are still behind Proposition 2. But that figure is roughly eight percent lower than it had been. Support for Prop. 2 dropped after the LDS Church released a statement officially opposing medical cannabis legalization.