Wife of Utah Candidate For Governor Faces Marijuana Possession Charges

By Paul Gaita 10/18/16

Weinholtz previously stated that his wife uses marijuana as an alternative to opiates to deal with her arthritis.

Wife of Utah Candidate For Governor Faces Marijuana Possession Charges
Gubernatorial Candidate Mike Weinholtz and his wife Donna Photo: via YouTube

Prosecutors in Utah have announced that they will file charges against the wife of a gubernatorial candidate after federal investigators found marijuana in their home. Gary Searle, chief deputy attorney for Tooele County, stated that Donna Weinholtz—whose husband, healthcare executive Mike Weinholtz, is running for governor on the Democratic ticket—will face misdemeanor drug possession charges after federal agents discovered two pounds of marijuana in their home in Salt Lake City.

Weinholtz has stated that his wife uses cannabis to relieve pain from arthritis and degenerative spinal conditions, but possession for either medical or recreational use is illegal in the state of Utah, except in the case of individuals with severe epilepsy, who are allowed to use cannabis extract oil. If convicted, Weinholtz could face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Investigators became aware of the situation earlier in the year when U.S. postal inspectors intercepted a package containing a small amount of pot, which Weinholtz had attempted to mail to a home that she and her husband own in California. Agents were then sent to the Weinholtz’s home in Salt Lake City, where they discovered the two pounds—but the U.S. Attorney’s office declined to continue with the case, believing that federal charges were unwarranted. The case was then sent to Salt Lake City, but prosecutors there balked on moving forward, citing Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill’s political support for Weinholtz’s campaign. Tooele County then picked up the case, where Searle announced his intention to prosecute on Oct. 12.

In a statement issued by his campaign that same day, Weinholtz stated that his wife used marijuana as an alternative to opiates or other measures that were deemed “invasive, ineffective or addictive.” He added, "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.”

Earlier in the year, Weinholtz announced that he was supporting legalization efforts for medical marijuana in Utah because of the initial federal investigation into the pot found in their home.

In his announcement on Oct. 12, Searle stated that he did not intend to treat the case as a “political sideshow,” and will treat Donna Weinholtz like any other citizen facing similar charges. A spokesperson for Mike Weinholtz’s opponent, Republican Gov. Gary Herbert, offered no comment on the investigation. Even without the current issue, Weinholtz faces a tough battle against Herbert, who leads in most polls by double digits.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, Amazon.com and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.