ST. GEORGE – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints joined in a coalition with other faith groups, law enforcement, medical professionals and others Thursday urging Utahns to vote against the medical marijuana ballot initiative known as Proposition 2.
The coalition, known as Drug Safe Utah, held a press conference voicing collective support for medical marijuana, but not the means by which it would be legalized in the state should Proposition 2 pass in November.
“The church does not object to the medicinal use of marijuana, if doctor-prescribed, in dosage form, through a licensed pharmacy,” said LDS Elder Jack N. Gerard, of the Seventy.
“We are deeply concerned by the history of other states that have allowed for medical or recreational use of this drug without the proper controls and have experienced serious consequences to the health and safety of their citizens. Therefore, we urge the voters of Utah to vote no on Proposition 2. We call on lawmakers, patients and community leaders to come together to find an appropriate solution to benefit all Utahns.”
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The anti-Proposition 2 coalition press conference, courtesy of Fox 13 News.
It is estimated that Mormons make up 60 percent of Utah’s population.
The church originally stated its opposition in May through a legal analysis of the ballot initiative conducted by the Kirton McConkie law firm. Church officials said the analysis “raises great concerns” about the consequences the initiative may have if passed by voters.
Like other faith groups, the LDS church cannot endorse political candidates but can weigh in on public policy issues without its tax-exempt status being threatened.
A part of the coalition’s overall statement reads:
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. Moreover, though continued research into the risks and benefits of medical marijuana use remains paramount, current scientific evidence suggests marijuana contains components that may be of benefit to some patients.
The coalition consists of the Utah Medical Association, Utah Sheriffs Association, Utah PTA Association, Episcopal Diocese of Utah, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, Utah Eagle Forum, Fraternal Order of Police, Utah Narcotics Officers Association, Islamic Society of Greater Salt Lakes, Latinos in Action and many groups.
“Our coalition has come together to educate the citizens of Utah about the substantial flaws in this initiative and the risks and consequences to out youth, our community and our citizens at large,” Utah businessman Kem Gardner said.
Gardner said he wasn’t against the scientifically proven use of medical marijuana and its sale through pharmacies or state-run facilities. In contrast, he said Proposition 2 would allow marijuana brownies and gummies “in corner pot shops.”
The sentiment of support for the use of medical marijuana, yet opposition to Proposition 2 being the vehicle for its legalization, was echoed by others who spoke during Thursday’s event.
The Utah Medical Association, which represents many medical professionals across the state, has been vocal in its opposition to the medical cannabis initiative.
“We’ve been studying the medical marijuana issue for many years and have consistently recognized there is a place for cannabis-based medications in the tool box of my profession,” the UMA’s Adam Taintor said.
“Some have questioned why the association has been so adamantly opposed to Proposition 2 and its important goal of adding another tool at the disposal of physicians and their patients. The short answer is that Proposition 2 is not about medicine. It is a poor disguised initiative to allow recreational use into the state. Taking a vote on a ballot initiative does not make something medicine.”
Various speakers expressed concern the proposition would negatively impact the state’s children.
“Marijuana use can damage the developing brain, cause addiction, affect memory and impair motor skills,” said DeAnn Ketternring of the Utah PTA Association.
“While we do support further research and legislation toward making cannabis medications more available, we do not believe this proposition effectively accomplishes that task. Rather, it puts the children and youth of Utah at risk for greater harm.”
Medical marijuana advocates were also among coalition, including Enedina Stanger, who has used medical marijuana to help ease the pain caused by a genetic condition called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.
She said that at times the condition left her in a wheelchair, but she was walking and stood while addressing media at the press conference. She credits being able to walk again to a strict regimen that includes medical marijuana as a “key component.”
To legally use the medical marijuana that helps ease her condition, Stanger had to leave Utah for Colorado.
“My desire to have medical marijuana legalized in Utah is not only to allow my family to return home, but to ease the suffering of so many patients,” she said. “However, I do not believe Proposition 2 is that way. I believe it does not have the true interest of patients at heart.”
As the press conference progressed, supporters of Proposition 2 could be seen shaking their heads and at one point turning their backs on those speaking.
Utah law currently allows for the regulated use of CBD oils for the treatment of epilepsy and recently passed a law enabling terminally ill patients a right to try medical marijuana.
The state also passed regulation of store-bought CBD oils to ensure they are what they claim to be, and not another substance that could be potentially harmful.
Polls conducted over the past two years have shown that a majority of Utahns support medical cannabis legalization.
The Utah Patients Coalition, the group behind the medical marijuana initiative, responded to the press conference over social media.
“Prop 2 is the best chance of providing access to patients with heavy safeguards and protections to minimize abuse. It is the compassionate approach, and it’s an actual proposal, unlike the non-proposal offered up at today’s press conference,” the group said on its Facebook page.
The medical marijuana advocacy group TRUCE also issued a statement, in part saying:
No answers were given in today and no alternative was offered to the ballot initiative. What was offered was more talk, more negotiations and more falsehoods. We are incredibly disappointed in the statement released today because their arguments are factually incorrect and harmful to the welfare of patients. It is important for those of us who are suffering that we all live in the truth.
A number of state lawmakers and other prominent Utahns also oppose Proposition 2, including some representing Southern Utah. Among those are:
- U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart
- U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop
- Mike Leavitt, former Utah governor, Secretary of U.S. Health and Human Services
- Mitt Romney, candidate for U.S. Senate
- Don Ipson, Utah state senator
- Ralph Okerlund, Utah state senator
- Evan Vickers, Utah state senator
- Walt Brooks, Utah state representative
- Merrill Nelson, Utah state representative
- Lowry Snow, Utah state representative
A full list of the people and groups supporting the Drug Safe Utah coalition can be found here.
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