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A Utah prosecutor plans to file a misdemeanor drug charge next week against the wife of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Weinholtz for allegedly mailing marijuana to the couple's home for use in treating her arthritis pain.
"There's no evidence whatsoever that [Donna] Weinholtz attempted to distribute," Chief Deputy Tooele County Attorney Gary Searle said Wednesday. "It was just for her use, so we'll file under the Utah statute simple possession, which is a class B misdemeanor."
If convicted, Weinholtz could face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Searle expects to file the charge in the Tooele County Justice Court next week.
In a statement, Mike Weinholtz said that, "like thousands of Utahns," his wife used medical marijuana to treat chronic pain that is the result of severe arthritis and a degenerative spinal condition.
"She refuses to use addictive opiates and used cannabis after suffering when other medicinal options were either invasive, ineffective or addictive," the statement read. "We have complied at every step of the judicial process and, now that we know where the case is landing, we look forward to having the issue resolved and moving on."
Donna Weinholtz stopped using medical marijuana in April. That is when police visited the Weinholtz home, days before her husband won his party's nomination to be the Democratic candidate for governor. He announced the investigation to delegates during his speech at the state party convention, saying he wanted to be upfront and not have the issue become a distraction.
Federal investigators were pursuing the case, but confirmed recently that the U.S. attorney's office opted not to charge Donna Weinholtz, referring the matter to local authorities. Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill had recused himself from the matter because he is friends with the Weinholtzes and a political ally. His chief deputy, Blake Nakamura, referred the case to the Tooele County attorney.
An attempt to legalize medical marijuana in Utah fell short in the past legislative session. Efforts are underway to craft a bill that could pass. If that fails, proponents have said they plan to run a ballot initiative in 2018.
Mike Weinholtz has said he supports legalizing medical marijuana and points to support from Utah voters for the move. A recent Salt Lake Tribune-Hinckley Institute of Politics poll found that 58 percent of voters favor legalizing medical marijuana.
His GOP rival, Gov. Gary Herbert, whose campaign declined to comment on the pending charge, has said he first would like to see the federal government allow more research on marijuana's effectiveness.
Donna Weinholtz is politically active in her own right. She was one of 13 protesters arrested in 2014 for blocking the door to a legislative hearing after Republican leaders decided not to hold a hearing on a bill that would ban housing and employment discrimination against LGBT Utahns.
She pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of disrupting a meeting. The count was dismissed in July 2015 after she completed probation and paid a $100 fine.