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Utah Group Claims Medical Marijuana Bill Violates Their Religious Freedom

A lawsuit against Utah’s Prop. 2 says it would force members of the Mormon Church to violate their religious beliefs.

Adam Drury

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Utah Group Claims Medical Marijuana Bill Violates Their Religious Freedom
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A ballot measure to legalize medical cannabis for patients with HIV, epilepsy, chronic pain, and other severe health problems is under threat in Utah again, this time from a lawsuit alleging the measure violates the religious freedom and freedom of speech of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Proponents of Proposition 2 are calling the second attempt to sue the measure a long shot. And they’re blasting the opposition’s efforts to keep it off the ballot.

Anti-Cannabis Coalition Files “Hail Mary” Lawsuit Against Medical Marijuana Vote

A coalition of anti-cannabis groups, including the Utah Medical Association, the Eagle Forum, and members of Drug Safe Utah, has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Walter J. Plumb, a lawyer and active member of The Church of Jesus Chris of Latter-day Saints. The lawsuit takes issue with a provision in Proposition 2 that would prevent landlords from discriminating against tenants who are legal, registered medical cannabis users in Utah.

The opposition group says such a provision would compel Plumb to act against his religious convictions. It would force people like Plumb, whose faith precludes using or association with people who use mind-altering substances, to do business with or rent property to people who use cannabis for medical reasons, they said. Walter Plumb is also the primary financial backer of the campaign to nix Proposition 2.

In their court filing, the group cites the now well-known U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the case involving a Colorado baker who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding on the grounds that doing so would violate his religious convictions against homosexuality. SCOTUS ruled in the baker’s favor in June. Opponents of Prop. 2 hope the legal precedent will work in their favor.

But supporters of Proposition 2 are simply shaking their heads at that legal strategy. DJ Sanchez, a director of the campaign to get Prop. 2 on the ballot, called it a crazy “Hail Mary” and a “wacky attempt” to deny “voters’ ability to vote on this important issue.”

Mormon-Backed Lawsuit Calls Medical Cannabis Use “Repugnant”

So far, the Mormon Church hasn’t officially come out against medical cannabis legalization. Rather, their statements on the issue largely defer to Utah’s most active anti-cannabis groups, like the Utah Medical Association. The case is the same here. The Mormon Church isn’t suing to keep Prop. 2 off the ballot — the UMA and other groups are.

But they’re being supported by Walter J. Plumb, who has spent more than $100,000 on the campaign opposed to medical cannabis in Utah. Plumb has also put in legwork against Prop. 2, going door to door to voters and trying to persuade them to remove their signatures from a petition in favor of the ballot initiative. That tactic was unsuccessful.

Furthermore, the group’s legal complaint adopts some language that offended medical-cannabis advocates. The complaint states that Mormons have “a constitutional right to exercise their religious beliefs.” And that “this includes the right not to consort with, be around, or do business with people engaging in activities which their religion finds repugnant.”

In a statement responding to the lawsuit, Sanchez blasts the complaint’s rhetoric. “These groups,” Sanchez said, “should be ashamed of themselves for calling sick and afflicted patients morally repugnant.”

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