SALT LAKE CITY — Donna Weinholtz resolved her misdemeanor marijuana charges Tuesday, leading her husband, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Weinholtz, to talk publicly about medical cannabis after months of silence.
Mike Weinholtz disclosed that his wife was under investigation after winning the Democratic nomination in April, but he repeatedly declined to discuss the situation or elaborate on his avowed support for legalizing marijuana for medical use.
On Tuesday, he reiterated that he fully supports legalization of medical marijuana and would work to make it happen if elected governor. He also denounced the use of "dangerously addictive" opioids, which he said are breaking families and taking lives.
"This is not about myself or about my wife. This is about doing the right thing medically, philosophically and morally," Mike Weinholtz said, blaming "weak leaders" for the state's current policies.
Weinholtz became emotional talking about watching his wife endure chronic pain caused by arthritis and degenerative spinal conditions.
Donna Weinholtz pleaded guilty to possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia, both class B misdemeanors, in Tooele County Justice Court. A judge sentenced her to 12 months of probation and imposed a $3,800 fine. She entered a plea in abeyance, meaning the charges will be dismissed if she successfully completes probation.
Donna Weinholtz said she made a deliberate and conscious decision to use cannabis knowing it was against the law. She said she considered spinal surgery a last resort and was determined to avoid painkillers because she had seen family members "battle the addictive chokehold of Oxycontin."
The investigation began after U.S. Postal Service inspectors intercepted a package containing a small amount of pot that Donna Weinholtz tried to mail earlier this year to another home she and her husband own in California.
Federal investigators went to the couple's Salt Lake City home and found two pounds of marijuana.
The U.S. Attorney's Office didn't believe federal charges were warranted and forwarded the case to Salt Lake County. The case was then sent to Tooele County because Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill is a political ally of Mike Weinholtz and wanted to avoid a conflict of interest, officials said.
Donna Weinholtz has not used marijuana since April, and her husband said she suffers greatly as the couple searches for a cure.
Gov. Gary Herbert had no comment on Donna Weinhotlz's legal case, said his campaign manager Marty Carpenter.
On medical marijuana, Herbert favors the federal government reclassifying the drug to allow scientific study of the potential benefits and drawbacks to legalization.
Mike Weinholtz said state leaders have failed to improve or fix a broken law that ties doctors' hands in the state for treating chronic pain. The only mistake committed by people who become addicted to painkillers is "naively trusting Utah politicians to do the right thing."
"I refuse to allow Utahns, our neighbors and our families, to suffer the consequences of bad policy enacted by weak leaders," he said.
He said he plans to release a policy proposal on medical marijuana Thursday.
As governor, Weinholtz said he would support legislative efforts to legalize medical cannabis, and if those fail, would get behind a possible 2018 ballot initiative. He said he would continue to support the effort if he's not elected, but he would not say if he would put his money behind it.