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Opposition Groups Ask Voters To Withdraw Signatures From Ballot Initiatives

Erik Neumann / KUER

County clerks are in the middle of verifying thousands of voter signatures submitted by four potential ballot initiatives. But as the May 15 deadline nears, opposition groups are asking people to remove their signatures.

The Utah Medical Association has voiced opposition to an initiative that would expand access to medical marijuana. Now it has co-founded a political issue committee with the conservative Utah Eagle Forum called Drug Safe Utah, which is paying canvassers to go door-to-door and ask people who’ve signed the medical cannabis initiative to remove their signatures.

“We have talked to many people who have said, ‘What? I didn’t know I signed that,’ or ‘What? I didn’t know that’s what was in the initiative,’” said Michelle McOmber, CEO of the Utah Medical Association.

For example, McOmber said, some people were surprised to learn that under the initiative, medical cannabis dispensaries could be set up within 600 feet of a school.

“We’re just saying be aware of what it is. Once you’re aware of what is in that [petition], then make a decision on whether or name you want your name on this petition,” she said.

Christine Stenquist, a medical marijuana advocate and executive director of Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education (TRUCE), said she was frustrated, but not surprised, by the opposition campaign.

“Unfortunately, their efforts continue to harm patients and must not go unchallenged,” she said.

Opponents of the medical marijuana initiative aren’t the only ones asking people to reconsider.

Keep My Voice was pushing for an initiative to repeal Utah’s dual-path election system but got a late start and never submitted signatures for verification. Now Keep My Voice founder Dave Bateman is asking people to remove their signatures from the Count My Vote initiative.

“This petition … it is dense,” Bateman said in a video posted to Facebook this week. “Virtually no one that signs the petition and no one who votes in the general election will have read this.”

Gov. Gary Herbert last week said he was “a little bit off-put” by the tactic. “Let’s have the debate. Let’s hear the pros and the cons. Let’s vote and let the people speak,” he said.

According to unofficial numbers from the Lt. Governor’s office, the medical cannabis and Count My Vote initiatives both appear to have qualified for the ballot, but that could change if enough voters withdraw their signatures before the May 15 deadline.

Nicole Nixon holds a Communication degree from the University of Utah. She has worked on and off in the KUER Newsroom since 2013, when she first joined KUER as an intern. Nicole is a Utah native. Besides public radio, she is also passionate about beautiful landscapes and breakfast burritos.
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