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Mormon Church Challenges Utah’s Medical Marijuana Initiative

By Roger Malespin  (photo/istock.com/madsci) 

On April 16th, the Utah Medical Marijuana Initiative collected 200,000 signatures, and there’s a good chance the initiative, created by The Utah Patients Coalition, will appear on the Utah Ballot on November 6th, 2018. The measure would legalize the medical use of marijuana for individuals with qualifying medical illnesses. However, it is being challenged by the Mormon Church, which released a 31-point memo on what it calls ‘legal issues’ the measure contains.
Some of these issues have some legal weight, such as the concern that there is no oversight to the allotted 6 plant limit a person can grow, but most others are the typical distorted truths and outright lies that religious opposition groups have given before. The memo challenges a patient's ability to diagnose their own pain as ‘chronic’, advocates the state being able to decide how much marijuana is allowed to be consumed by an individual, and questions whether a child should be allowed to receive medical marijuana even if in chronic pain, among other things. 
While the reasoning and poor science is laughable, the legalization movement should be wary. Though not an official political organization since the government still protects churches and allows them political activities even though they shouldn’t, the Mormon Church holds significant power in Utah on political and social issues. Despite it’s official apolitical status, the official church stance on staying out of politics does not include if there are instances of what church leaders deem to be moral issues. It has previously opposed same-sex marriage in California Prop 8, opposed gambling, opposed storage of nuclear waste in Utah, and supported the Utah Compact. 
This is the second time that the church has opposed the initiative. In March, the Utah Medical Association (UMA) released a strongly worded statement opposing any medical marijuana reform, implying that proponents of it are misleading the public by using a few legit medical cases to mask the true goal of recreational marijuana legalization. 

It should be noted that the UMA is a small group of doctors and does not represent the majority of doctors in Utah. 
“The memorandum raises grave concerns about this initiative and the serious adverse consequences that could follow if it were adopted,” LDS Church spokeswoman Karlie Guymon said via email. “We invite all to read the memorandum and to make their own judgment.”  
Guymon added that “the negative effects and consequences of marijuana use on individuals, families, and society at large are well-known.”

‘Well known’ in this context is the now long discredited reefer madness-like mentality surrounding marijuana that religious groups have been holding onto for decades. Although the general consciousness of the country views this as archaic and legalization is now more socially acceptable than ever, it is difficult to say how the initiative will play out in November. Mormonism has its own culture that is a huge part of Utah politics and is socially separate from much of the country. Proponents and advocates of legalization who are in Utah are strongly encouraged to be as active as possible, even something as small as writing your local representative can make a difference in giving the citizens of Utah the right to medical cannabis that all American citizens deserve.