ST. GEORGE — Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are calling on the Utah Legislature to legalize medical marijuana on a broader scale than the state currently allows by year’s end. While the church has stated its support of medical marijuana use, it nonetheless continues to encourage Utahns to vote against the ballot measure known as Proposition 2.
LDS representatives told the Deseret News Sunday they want the Legislature to pass medical marijuana legalization so patients who have medical needs that can benefit from legal marijuana-based medication don’t have to keep waiting.
“This isn’t ‘let’s wait till next year to have a conversation.’ It needs to be dealt with soon. There’s an urgency to accomplish this,” said Jack Gerard, a leader in the LDS church.
The church, along with other groups who each belong to the anti-Proposition 2 coalition Drug Safe Utah, considers the ballot measure to be too broad and potential harmful to the state’s youth.
Proposition 2 would create a state-regulated growing and dispensing operation to allow people with certain medical conditions to get medical marijuana cards and use the drug in edible forms, lotions or electronic cigarettes. Regular smoking of marijuana is prohibited under the ballot measure.
Opponents also take issue with Proposition 2 allowing someone to grow their own marijuana if they live more than 100 miles from a designated dispensary.
These points were reinforced Monday in a new document released by the Kirton McConkie law firm in response to a counterpoints the libertarian-leaning think tank Libertas Institute made against a legal analysis the firm originally did for the church in May.
“Libertas appears to favor full legalization of marijuana, and the Marijuana Initiative is a big step in that direction,” the Kirton McConkie document states. “The primary purpose of our analysis, by contrast, was to identify some of the legal problems and risks the Marijuana Initiative would create. Whether those problems and risks are worth it—or whether the Marijuana Initiative is a slippery slope to full legalization – is a policy question for voters to decide.”
A counterpoint to a counterpoint, the document goes on the claim the Libertas Institute actually agrees with many of the points of the original analysis, yet interprets those points differently.
“This latest memo is 11th-hour nit-picking that shows more obstructionism to a proposal that’s been public for well over a year,” Conner Boyack, Libertas Institute president, told St. George in a statement Monday.
“The public is ready to vote on Prop 2, and nuanced legal arguments taken out of context aren’t going to change anybody’s mind,” he said.
The Libertas Institute is a major backer of Proposition 2 which was originally brought forward by the Utah Patients Coalition last summer. Proposition 2 supporters have said the ballot initiative was an answer to the Legislature’s failure to pass board medical marijuana legalization.
To say the Legislature hasn’t passed anything is unfair and untrue, state Sen. Don Ipson, R-St. George, said Monday.
In 2014 the Legislature passed a law allowing the use of CBD-based cannabis oils for the treatment of epilepsy. Earlier this year lawmakers also passed a “right to try” bill that gave terminal ill patients the ability to try cannabis-based medicines.
“I think we created a good bridge” that will help lead into better laws, Ipson said.
Ipson does not support Proposition 2.
“Its just too broad,” he said. “Medical marijuana should be controlled through the pharmacies and doctors.”
Ipson also said he supports the idea of calling a special legislative session to hammer out some kind of legislative answer to Proposition 2.
But Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican, said it’s too early to gather lawmakers to consider an alternative to the ballot measure. Herbert typically calls a special session only when there is a “near consensus” among state lawmakers and there’s a long way to go to reach one on medical marijuana, spokesman Paul Edwards said.
Herbert has said he will vote against the ballot initiative known as Proposition 2, but he wants lawmakers to act next year.
Democratic lawmaker Brian King, on the other hand, said he’s voting for Proposition 2 even though he thinks it’s flawed. The House minority leader said the likelihood that the Legislature would pass a bill if the ballot initiative fails is “slim and none.”
A special session would likely be held in November or early December, shortly after voters weigh in on Nov. 6.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
- The Kirton McConkie rebuttal to the Libertas Institute’s rebuttal
- Libertas Institute: A Rebuttal of Kirton McConkie’s Analysis of the Utah Medical Cannabis Act
- The Kirton McConkie legal analysis of the Utah Medical Cannabis Act
- The Initiative – Utah Medical Cannabis Act
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