ST. GEORGE – With the filing earlier this week of a medical marijuana ballot initiative that seeks to put the question of legalization before Utah voters in 2018, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, widely known as the Mormon church, has since weighed in on the issue.
The church often speaks outs concerning “issues that it believes have significant community or moral consequences.” The issue of medicinal marijuana is no different.
While the church asked members to vote down recreational marijuana ballot initiatives in Arizona and Nevada in 2016, it urged a “cautious approach” to the subject of medicinal use as the Utah Legislature looked at the issue during the 2017 legislative session.
As for the 2018 ballot initiative, LDS church spokesperson Eric Hawkins issued the following statement:
Lawmakers across the country have wrestled with whether to legalize the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. This discussion raises legitimate questions regarding the benefits and risks of legalizing a drug that has not gone through the well-established and rigorous process to prove its effectiveness and safety.
During the 2017 legislative session, a bill was passed that appropriately authorized further research of the potential benefits and risks of using marijuana. The difficulties of attempting to legalize a drug at the state level that is illegal under Federal law cannot be overstated.
Accordingly, we believe that society is best served by requiring marijuana to go through further research and the FDA approval process that all other drugs must go through before they are prescribed to patients.
Supporters of the ballot measure say the research has already been done and that continuing to delay legalization further harms the patients who could otherwise benefit from medical cannabis use.
“The patients cannot wait any longer, so we are proposing a conservative medical cannabis initiative that Utahns across the political spectrum will approve at the ballot box next year,” DJ Schanz, of the Utah Patients Coalition, said during a press conference Monday.
A February poll commissioned Marijuana Policy Project, a national marijuana reform organization that is supporting the 2018 Utah ballot initiative campaign, showed approximately 73 percent of Utah voters support the ballot initiative.
The poll claims over 60 percent of those polled identified as active LDS voters.
Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates, an opinion research firm out of Los Angeles, conducted the poll.
The ballot initiative is modeled after a whole-plant medical marijuana bill previously put before the Legislature by former Sen. Mark Madsen, of Saratoga Springs. That bill did not survive the legislative process.
Madsen was present during Monday’s press conference and told Fox 13 News that LDS church members in Utah are in a tough place. Though medical marijuana is legal in surrounding states, it remains illegal within Utah.
As church members are taught that they should “obey the laws of the land” in which they reside, this issue can put a church member’s membership status at risk, Madsen said,
“Can I or can I not go to the temple? Those decisions, I think, are unfair to put a member of the church in,” he said, further adding he hopes the church doesn’t interfere with ballot initiative.
“I think I have about as much business running the church as they do running the state,” he said.
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