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Year-end picture
Renee Bright / KUER

It was a year of big — big fires, big ballot initiatives and big political upsets — that collectively defined Utah in 2018 as the state continued its growth spurt. The Beehive State added another 50,000 people this year, owing both to the state’s healthy economy and low unemployment. But Utah also weathered more troublesome headlines, whether through the rushed creation of a controversial Inland Port in northwest Salt Lake City or the publication of sexual abuse allegations implicating leaders in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Catholic Church.

KUER reporters picked out some of the top stories of this year and explain why they mattered.

Photo of Stenquist.
Nicole Nixon / KUER

A new lawsuit is seeking to block legislation approved by lawmakers this week which rewrote a voter-approved ballot measure expanding access to medical marijuana.

Utah lawmakers at special session.
Julia Ritchey / KUER

Updated 12/3/18 9:00 p.m.

Just two days after a sweeping new medical cannabis law went into effect, Utah lawmakers passed an overhaul of the measure in a special session at the state capitol on Monday.

Utah lawmakers are getting ready to meet in a special lame-duck session on Monday to rewrite a medical marijuana law that voters passed this November. Patient advocates are saying the move is an end run around voters.

For the past year, Julie King, the mother of four from Saratoga Springs, Utah, has been a vocal proponent of medical marijuana after she discovered she has an adverse reaction to opioids.

Utah Cann expo
Rocio Hernandez/KUER

What does hemp oil do and how much of it should you take? Those were some of the questions posed at the inaugural Utah Cann medical cannabis conference that opened Friday in Sandy.

Photo of meeting.
Nicole Nixon / KUER

Some Republican legislators and conservative groups appear to have been won over by a draft bill, which lawmakers pledge will expand medical marijuana in Utah whether or not a ballot initiative passes in November.

Julia Ritchey / KUER

Utah is poised to legalize medical marijuana this fall, and it could be the first state-run distribution program in the country.

Julia Ritchey / KUER

Utah businessman and philanthropist Walter Plumb III appears to be planning a new strategy to defeat a ballot initiative that would expand medical marijuana in the state — despite a pledge to scale back campaign activities against the effort.

Prop 2 meeting photo.
Julia Ritchey / KUER

Gov. Gary Herbert unveiled a legislative compromise on Thursday designed to assuage both sides of a fiercely contested ballot measure that would broaden access to medical marijuana in Utah.

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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came out in cautious support of medical marijuana last month but now says the legislature should decide how it’s legalized in Utah, not the voters in a citizen’s initiative this November.

Jason Harris photo.
Lee Hale / KUER


Marijuana and Mormonism don't usually go together. And that puts Jason Harris in a cloudy position, even if pot has essentially cleared up his life.

Renee Bright / KUER

Opponents of Utah's medical marijuana ballot measure launched a phone-based push poll this week that critics charge uses misleading or false claims about legalization of the drug.

File Photo / KUER

As Utah voters mull whether to legalize medical marijuana via a ballot initiative this November, Gov. Gary Herbert is urging Congress to reschedule the drug.

LDS Church Headquarters.
Lee Hale / KUER

A group of liberal members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints say the Church's stance on medical marijuana is alarmist and error-ridden.

Three church officials speak to press.
Nicole Nixon / KUER

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Thursday it is officially joining the fight against a ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana that will go before Utah voters this November.

marijuana in a prescription pill bottle.
iStock / thegoodphoto

Representatives from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are becoming more active in their opposition to a medical marijuana initiative in Utah this November.

marijuana leaf.
iStock.com / Darren415

Updated 8/16/18 4:22 pm

An anti-marijuana group said it is not party to a lawsuit filed this week to stop a medical marijuana ballot initiative. A spokesperson for Drug Safe Utah said they didn't agree to be named plaintiffs in the suit.

A pill bottle filled with marijuana.
istock

Opponents of an initiative to legalize medical marijuana in Utah have dropped a lawsuit intended to block the measure. But they may still sue to overturn the law if voters approve it.

 

UrosPoteko/istock

State Agriculture Department officials say that they may not have regulations ready in time to roll out a broad medical marijuana initiative if Utah voters approve it this November. Without governing rules in place, qualifying patients still could use medical pot, but they would have to get it out of state.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell may seem like an unlikely champion for an illegal substance, but the Kentucky Republican just added the legalization of marijuana’s non-psychoactive cousin, hemp, to the Senate farm bill. The industrial hemp business is increasingly seen as an economic savior and substitute for vulnerable industries like mining, especially in Colorado, one of the first states in the nation to make hemp legal at the state level.

This month, Colorado became the first state in the nation to allow school nurses to administer medical marijuana to students. But not all nurses may be on board.

Julia Ritchey / KUER

Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox on Tuesday announced the qualifying statewide ballot initiatives for the November election, with half of the original six petitions getting enough signatures to appear on the ticket.

Whittney Evans/KUER

The Utah Legislature passed a law this year letting residents grow hemp and sell byproducts from the plant. Now some eager Utahns are lining up to take advantage of the budding industry. 

iStock

Arguments are ramping up between groups on both sides of a medical marijuana ballot initiative in Utah, but the question remains as to whether legal challenges can stop the initiative process.

Lee Hale / KUER

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is doubling down on their opposition to a citizen-led initiative expanding access to medical marijuana. In a statement released Friday, a church spokesperson wrote that the initiative raises “grave concerns” and that “the negative effects of marijuana are well-known.”

Whittney Evans/KUER

Marijuana advocates are pleading with voters to disregard a campaign to thwart their ballot initiative. Leaders of the group TRUCE or Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education joined Epilepsy Utah and Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill for a press conference on Tuesday.

Maynard James Keller

The Utah Medical Association denies it hired a canvasser who was recorded misleading a voter about a medical marijuana ballot initiative. The pro-medical marijuana group TRUCE posted a video on Monday that shows an unidentified canvasser at a woman’s doorstep, encouraging her to rescind her support for the initiative.

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.

KUED

Gov. Gary Herbert weighed in on a range of election issues and candidates Thursday, including all four proposed ballot initiatives and candidates seeking the GOP nomination in federal races.

Erik Neumann / KUER

Ballot initiative groups pushing for policy changes like full Medicaid expansion and increased access to legalized medical marijuana are patiently waiting to qualify for the November ballot.

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