Though it’s often considered a conservative stronghold, the state of Utah shares a border with some the most pro-cannabis regions in the United States, namely Colorado, Arizona, and Nevada. This has created a unique situation in the Beehive State, which has seen a recent upswing in cannabis support from both Republican and Democratic representatives. In 2014, the state became the first conservative state to pass a “CBD-only” medical cannabis law, and since then, the state’s government officials have teetered back and forth with the idea of expanding that law.
Yesterday, Utah’s medical cannabis movement gained a big supporter in Mike Weinholtz, the current Democratic candidate for governor of the state. Unfortunately, his call for medical cannabis came on the heels of some bad news for the Weinholtz family. Hours before he held a press conference to advocate for an improved medicinal marijuana system in Utah, his wife Donna pleaded guilty to misdemeanor pot-possession charges.
The 61-year-old woman had been utilizing cannabis to treat her arthritis and degenerative spinal conditions, claiming that the medicine was the best method for her ailments. After authorities found two pounds of cannabis on their property, Mrs. Weinholtz pleaded guilty to possession charges, which led her husband to hold an emotional press conference calling for a viable medicinal cannabis system.
"What would you do if the person you love most in the world was faced with that decision?" Weinholtz said during the press conference. "Would you report them to the police? Would you insist they stop and live with pain too severe to sleep at night?"
The Democratic candidate claimed that current laws in Utah leave doctors with little options but to prescribe powerful painkillers to patients, which has contributed to the epidemic of opiate addiction in the state and throughout the country. Currently, Utah’s medical cannabis law only allows extract oil to treat severe epilepsy, while two attempts to broaden the law died in the Legislature earlier this year.
But the case of the Weinholtz should certainly help to spark the conversation back up again, as a legislative committee is expected to be discussing the issue at some point today. As for Donna Weinholtz, her guilty plea for possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia has landed her with a $3,800 fine and one year of probation. Without the plea deal, Mrs. Weinholtz faced up to six months in jail for her first offense involving cannabis.
According to Tooele County Chief Deputy Attorney Gary Searle, who took on the case, Mrs. Weinholtz had used the drug for personal use, and there was no evidence her husband was aware that the drug was in their household. Even with the sentimental press conference filled with support and love for his wife, the Democratic nominee still faces an uphill battle against incumbent Gov. Gary Herbert in a state with an overwhelming majority of GOP supporters.