The Mormon Church has officially voiced its opposition to efforts to legalize medical marijuana in Utah. Elder Jack N. Gerard, joined by politicians, church leaders, and healthcare providers, announced at a press conference on Thursday that the Mormon Church will oppose Proposition 2. Voters in Utah will decide in November on the initiative that would legalize the medicinal use of cannabis in the state.
Gerard said that the Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS) does not want Utah to follow the lead of the other 30 states that have legalized medical marijuana.
“We are deeply concerned by the history of other states that have allowed medical and recreational use of this drug … and have experienced serious consequences to the health of its citizens,” he said. “We want to prevent unwanted consequences in this state.”
“We urge the voters of Utah to vote no on Proposition 2,” Gerard added.
The views of the Mormon Church can be very influential in state politics in Utah, where 60 percent of the population are members of the church.
Opposition Evolved Slowly
Thursday’s press conference was the first time the Mormon Church has publicly stated its opposition to Proposition 2. In April, church leaders released a statement praising the Utah Medical Association for its position on the proposition that cautioned “that the proposed Utah marijuana initiative would compromise the health and safety of Utah communities,” according to media reports.
The following month, church leaders released a statement saying that there were legal concerns associated with the proposition, including “significant challenges for law enforcement.”
Mormon politicians including Gov. Gary R. Herbert, businesspeople, and civic leaders have also publicly opposed Proposition 2. Earlier this month, attorney and church member Walter Plumb filed a lawsuit against the initiative, saying that it would impede with his freedom of religion.
His “religious beliefs include a strict adherence to a code of health which precludes the consumption and possession of mind-altering drugs, substances and chemicals, which includes cannabis and its various derivatives,” according to the court filing.
Church doctrine directs members to avoid alcohol, tobacco, coffee, tea and “illegal drugs,” although the medicinal use of cannabis is not directly addressed.
Church’s Stance ‘Nothing New’
Proponents of the medical marijuana initiative are not surprised by the church’s stance. DJ Shanz is the director of the group campaigning for Proposition 2, the Utah Patients Coalition. He said that the current “onslaught by the LDS Church to undermine our efforts to give patients relief is nothing new.”
Shanz added that his group is pleased that church leaders have now publicly stated their position on the initiative.
“We are actually relieved that they are finally doing it in the open rather than behind the scenes,” he said. “We have great hope that the voters in Utah will side with patients and in favor of compassion and see through the smoke and mirrors surely to follow.”
Voters Decide November 6
Proposition 2, the Utah Medical Cannabis Act, would legalize the use, cultivation, processing, and sale of cannabis for medicinal purposes. Voters will decide on the initiative at this year’s general election on November 6.