Members of an organization promoting the legalization of marijuana filed a lawsuit against Salt Lake County, Salt Lake County Fair Inc. and members of the fair board Tuesday in federal court for shutting down their "hemp" booth for the last two days of the fair.
Mood for a Day is asking $2,000 in lost sales, $10,000 for violating the group's constitutional rights, and $10,000 in punitive damages, the suit says. The group is also asking for attorney fees and a court order allowing Mood for a Day to participate in future Salt Lake County Fairs under rules similar to those for other groups that lease booths, sell goods and distribute information regardless of their opinions or ideas, the suit says.Fair officials closed the hemp booth Aug. 13 contending they didn't want the fair to have a reputation for promoting narcotics. But members of Mood for a Day's board of directors say they are advocating the industrial uses of marijuana and have rented the booth for two years to provide literature about how the plant can be used for making fabric, food products, fuel, paper and oil.
In response to a request for $2,000 from Mood for a Day last week, the Salt Lake County Commission referred the matter to county fair officials. In an Aug. 24 letter sent to Brian Barnard, the group's attorney, Chief Deputy County Attorney Donald Sawaya classified the fair board as a private, non-profit organization whose board members can specify which booths are allowed.
But the suit says Salt Lake County has provided financial support for the fair, and in 1992 contributed $35,000 of its $66,000 budget, and "supervises, manages, aids, assists and subsidizes Salt Lake County Fair in other ways." Therefore, the fair should be considered a function of Salt Lake County.
Fair officials never adopted specific criteria determining who should or shouldn't be allowed to lease booths or distribute information at the fair, the suit says.
Bob Waldrop, Mood for a Day's director, said the group will have a booth at the State Fair, which opens Sept. 10, and doesn't expect any problems.