Voter turnout in the most recent midterm election was extremely high nationwide and the state of Utah was no exception seeing their best turnout since 1962, more than half a decade ago.
Lt. Governor Spencer Cox oversees the state’s elections, and this week his office reported that midterm voter turnout had jumped from 46% in 2014 up to 75% this year – a rise that Cox describes to the Salt Lake Tribune as both “incredible” and “ridiculous”.
So what drove Utah voters to the polls in the typically conservative state?
Well, the numbers don’t lie and one measure that raked in more votes than any other option on the ballot – including hotly contested Senate and Congressional races – was Proposition 2 which passed 53-47 to establish the state’s first regulated medical marijuana market.
Even Cox had to acknowledge the power of pot as a gateway drug to democracy, stating, “There’s no question that Prop 2 was a big driver. Usually the Senate race would have been kind of the high water mark. It was very high, but Prop 2 was a little higher.”
Well, that settles it, right?
Now Utahns should be able to get a little higher too, right?
Well, no, not exactly.
Not in today’s politics where lawmakers don’t really serve their constituents anymore, but rather their corporate and lobbyist overlords. In the case of Utah politics, you get the added element of an overbearing statewide religion in the mix and the results so far have been a goddamn mess.
Even before voters went to the polls earlier this month to cast their ballots, the LDS/Mormon church had begun to meddle in the allegedly democratic process of putting the will of the people into law.
By utilizing their overflowing coffers of untaxed cash, their wholesale ownership of all prominent state and local level media outlets, and their well-grooved tactics of fear and influence over their loyal religious flock, the Mormon church shamelessly put its heavy thumb on the scale of justice for all to see and began to shift public support for what is really a very vanilla and uninspired medical marijuana law.
The state’s lawmakers, many (if not most) of them Mormons themselves, began to cave to the pressure from their religious right flank and agreed that regardless of the results of the upcoming vote on the matter, they would sit down and rewrite the proposed law in a way that would please everyone – which means satisfy the church.
Democracy died a little that day.
Not only are the voters getting bait & switched, they were told ahead of time that would be the case no matter what decision they made on Election Day.
These sellouts claim, with a straight face and a plan to go to Heaven, that the new law – which hasn’t even gone into effect yet – must be rewritten due to the “unintended consequences” of Prop 2.
The consequences of something that hasn’t even started yet.
Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes is the ringleader of this push to undermine democracy from within, but recently tried to deflect criticism, saying, "This idea that something's being sabotaged, that something's being undermined, is just not the case."
Hughes, a Republican, doubled down on the lie, adding "There is no gutting of any proposition, there is no undermining of any will of the people."
There are many proposed changes being forcefully suggested by the anti-cannabis lawmakers, including the inexplicable removal of autoimmune disease patients from the list of qualifying conditions for the MMJ program.
New language would also change the term “recommend” to “prescribe” when talking about how doctors and patients discuss the program. Many cannabis advocates are concerned that this one simple word change could have federal implications and could discourage doctors from getting involved at all. A useful deterrent for those opposed to the new law.
You can read about all the proposed changes HERE, but the fact remains, none of it is what 52.75% of Utah voters demanded. Whatever the compromise ends up being, it is just that – a compromise… with the losers. It strips all democratic power away from the people in a blatantly un-American move that Rep. Hughes says he is “proud of”.
When you can’t even slip a voter ballot between the separation of church and state, all hell tends to break loose.
Better luck next time, Utah.