ST. GEORGE – Top leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement Tuesday weighing in on Utah’s medical marijuana ballot initiative.
In the statement from the First Presidency, which consists of the church’s prophet-president and his two counselors, lent its support to the views of the Utah Medical Association, which opposes the initiative.
We commend the Utah Medical Association for its statement of March 30, 2018, cautioning that the proposed Utah marijuana initiative would compromise the health and safety of Utah communities. We respect the wise counsel of the medical doctors of Utah.
The public interest is best served when all new drugs designed to relieve suffering and illness and the procedures by which they are made available to the public undergo the scrutiny of medical scientists and official approval bodies.
In its March 30 statement, the Utah Medical Association board of directors accused the Utah Patients Coalition, the group backing the medical marijuana initiative, of misleading the public, as well as “misrepresenting and misappropriating” Utah’s physicians regarding medical marijuana.
Neither D.J. Schanz, the Libertas Institute, the Marijuana Policy Project, nor any of the other backers of this initiative speak for the physicians of Utah, nor for the majority of their patients. As the largest organization representing physicians in Utah, UMA unequivocally states its opposition to the current initiative and applauds Gov. (Gary) Herbert for speaking out in opposition as well, fulfilling his role in protecting public health and safety.
The UMA directors also said the real purpose of the ballot initiative is not to legalize medical marijuana. Rather, the board argues the initiative is being used to ultimately pave the way for legalized recreational marijuana use in Utah.
“This initiative is not medical,” the board said in the statement.
Certifying the legitimate medical uses of marijuana should be done though “real science” and “unbiased research,” and that takes time the ballot initiative wouldn’t allow for, according to the statement.
“This is how real progress is made, not by opening the state to uncontrolled access to the array of psychoactive substances in whole plant marijuana that harm children, then seeing what happens,” the board said.
Read more: Should medical cannabis be legal in Utah?
However, one UMA member said the opinion of the group’s board of directors wasn’t shared by UMA members overall.
“UMA’s position reflects nothing more than the opinion of its board,” said Dr. Don Dan Cottom, UMA member and the Utah Patient Coalition’s medical advisor. His statement was released though the coalition.
“Far from being based on research or science, let alone the consensus of the doctors they purport to represent, it is a position that does not speak for many doctors like myself who are prepared to provide this medicine for our patients,” Cottom said.
Cottom added the ballot will help relieve the suffering of hundreds of patients across Utah and he’s glad he added his name to those supporting it. That name is among over 160,000 across the state.
To qualify for the November ballot, initiatives need to gather 130,000 verified signatures from across 27 of the state’s 29 Senate districts. The deadline for the medical marijuana initiative and others is April 16.
As for overall support of medical marijuana, there has been a series of surveys done through Utah Policy throughout 2017 that showed around 75 percent of Utahns support it. A more recent poll showed that number to be 77 percent.
As reported by Fox 13 News, DJ Shanz, Utah Patients Coalition director, issued a response to the LDS Church’s statement.
The LDS Church should be commended for its concern with public health and safety – laudable goals we are pursuing with our proposal. Too many patients face criminalization and unrelated, dangerous products as they pursue their own health. Oversight from regulators and doctors, as provided by the Utah Medical Cannabis Act, would increase public health and safety while providing safe access to patients who need this treatment option.
Herbert said he will actively oppose the medical marijuana ballot initiative, as he considers it to be significantly flawed and also believes it to be a gateway to recreational marijuana.
While Utah lawmakers did pass laws this year related to allowing medical marijuana research within the state and giving terminally ill patients the right to try experimental marijuana-based medicines, the limited scope of the laws has largely frustrated medical marijuana advocates.
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