LDS Church says vote no on Proposition 2 concerning medical marijuana

August 24, 2018 GMT

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has taken a stand on the marijuana initiative Proposition 2 on the ballot this November — vote no.

It has joined a coalition and shared a statement on Mormon Newsroom following a statement that was delivered Thursday by Michelle McOmber of the Utah Medical Association during a press event at the Utah State Capitol.

“The marijuana initiative appearing as Proposition 2 on the ballot this November does not strike the appropriate balance in ensuring safe and reasonable access for patients while also protecting youth and preventing other societal harms,” McOmber said.

She added, “We are firmly opposed to Proposition 2. However, we do not object to marijuana derivatives being used in medicinal form — so long as appropriate controls and safeguards are in place to ensure vulnerable populations are protected and access is limited to truly medicinal purposes.”

But meeting those conditions would be impossible under federal law, said medical marijuana advocate DJ Schanz, who accused leaders of “double-speak.”

The proposal would be more conservative than other laws on medical marijuana, which is legal in 30 states. Utah’s measure doesn’t allow pot smoking.

It would create a state-regulated growing and dispensing operation to allow people with certain medical conditions to get a card and use the drug in edible forms, lotions or electronic cigarettes.

Opponents say it could lead to recreational marijuana. The Drug Safe Utah coalition pushing back against the plan Thursday included doctors, police officers and public figures like Utah Jazz President Steve Starks.

McOmber, surrounded by other members of the coalition, continued by appealing to Utah voters. Elder Jack N. Gerard, a General Authority Seventy with the church, is a member of a joint coalition with McOmber and other medical, patient and safety professionals.

“We urge the voters of Utah to vote no on Proposition 2,” McOmber said. “We also urge lawmakers, patients, and community stakeholders to work together to find a solution that works for all Utahns. The hallmarks of Utah’s unique policy accomplishments in the past have been civility, compassion, and a spirit of compromise, and we are confident an approach guided by these principles will yield similarly effective policies.”

On May 11, the church announced it had asked its legal team from Kirton and McConkie to do an analysis of Proposition 2.

The analysis found a number of areas that caused church leadership concern and concluded there needed to be more study into the effects of its use and how it’s dispensed. There was also concern about side effects.

A handful of emotional patients also spoke Thursday, saying medical pot had life-changing effects on their health conditions but they still oppose the plan known as Proposition 2 as too broad.

Nathan Frodsham, who is a member of the church, said he’s previously spoken out in favor of the ballot initiative but is now convinced that a church-backed coalition will help “create something better, indeed, greater.”

The faith has long frowned upon medical marijuana use because of a key church health code called the “Word of Wisdom,” which prohibits coffee as well as alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs.

But as medical marijuana becomes legal in a growing number of states, a plan to allow broader access to it for medicinal uses has been gaining steam in Utah. After years of frustration at the Republican-dominated Legislature, advocates decided to go to voters and comfortably cleared a high bar to make the ballot.

Opponents have become increasingly vocal in recent months, asking people to withdraw their signatures and taking the issue to court.

Marijuana legalization efforts have faced some pushback from faiths before — including from the LDS Church in Arizona and Nevada two years ago and the Catholic Church in Massachusetts the same year.

The LDS Church holds outsized political sway in its home state of Utah, where members account for about two-thirds of the population.

“The power and the influence of the church on individual members is very strong,” Schanz said, adding that advocates will nevertheless make a strong case to voters. “We’re not going to back down.”