The recent Democratic and Republican conventions in Utah have yielded a surprising batch of unexpected nuggets. The Democratic nominee for governor of Utah recently revealed that his wife is under criminal investigation for medical marijuana. Instead of damaging his campaign, the investigation seemed to only propel him further into the Democratic nominee seat.
Michael Weinholtz made medical marijuana the number one topic at the Utah Democratic Convention.
“In the last 72 hours, we learned that my wonderful wife of 20 years, Donna, is under investigation for possession of marijuana,” Weinholtz told reporters. Then he gave a surprisingly transparent explanation. “She has only used cannabis for medical reasons to relieve her chronic pain. The issue of medical cannabis touches everyone.”
Weinholtz message was well-received — hours after his announcement he was crowned as the Utah Democratic nominee. Weinholtz walked away with 80 percent of the vote — crushing his opponent Vaughn Cook. Cook didn’t use medical marijuana as a campaign handle, instead calling himself more “electable.”
Weinholtz is a former executive from a staffing company. Being open about his wife’s investigation has had a surprising pleasant effect on his campaign.
“That’s what they can expect from me always in the future. Transparency is something that I’ve talked about on the campaign trail and I’m always going to be transparent, open and honest with people,” he explained.
Utah’s Republican Governor Gary Herbert failed to secure a nomination. Utah hasn’t elected a Democratic governor since 1980, but the times are changing at a glacial, yet steady pace. This year 728 of the state’s registered Democratic delegates, or two-thirds, showed up for the Democratic nomination.
Weinholtz’s wife Donna said she used medical marijuana to battle ongoing nerve damage sustained from arthritis. “I don’t believe in abusing any substance,” Donna Weinholtz told FOX 13, brandishing a denim jacket with Bernie buttons. “I don’t believing in abusing alcohol, I don’t believe in abusing this and that’s not what this is about. This is about being able to sleep, being able to relax and not have the pain from arthritis and I know the folks out there know what I’m talking about.”
Mrs. Weinholtz wasn’t arrested for possession of marijuana and both she and her husband deny that the arrest was a publicity stunt.
Utah is currently in civil war over cannabis. Two earlier bills to legalize medical cannabis lost steam and ran out of money at least for the November 2016 ballot. SB 73 and the more restrictive SB 89 would have legalized medical cannabis in the state of Utah, but both bills failed to pass through the state House. Activists have stated that they intended to continue the push for medical marijuana in the next legislative session.
Weinholtz said that if elected Governor, he’d sign a medical marijuana bill and addressed the need to bridge the gap between Mormon(Latter-Day Saints) and non-Mormon Utahns.
“The need for medical cannabis touches everyone: Republicans, Democrats, rich, poor, middle class, LDS and non-LDS,” Weinholtz said in a speech to delegates. “When I was up at the Legislature, I heard person after person testify that their condition caused them to have to choose between finding relief and breaking the law.”
The Mormon faith is opposed to all recreational drugs, but supports CBD-only extracts for children with severe illnesses.
It’s unclear whether Utah is ready for a Democratic Governor let alone a Democrat focused on the issue of medical cannabis. It’s been over 35 years since the last Democrat took office. Either way, Weinholtz’s message about medical marijuana seems to have resonated with Utah voters. The Utah primary election is scheduled for June 28.