Jana Riess: Will Mormon Leaders’ Opposition Turn the Tide for a Medical Marijuana Initiative in Utah?

On Thursday, a general authority of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints expressed the Church’s official position against Proposition 2, a medical marijuana initiative that’s scheduled to be on the ballot in Utah in November.

I’ve been watching this issue for months, ever since the Church’s May announcement that it had “grave concerns about this initiative and the serious adverse consequences that could follow if it were adopted.”

At that time, the LDS Church urged voters “to read the attached memorandum and to make their own judgment.” On Thursday, that tone seemed to be replaced with a more decisive opposition: the Church wants voters to defeat this measure, and emailed the state’s Mormons to fight the issue.

According to the message sent to church members on Thursday, the proposition creates “a serious threat to health and public safety, especially for our youth and young adults, by making marijuana generally available with few controls.”

It’s important to remember that the LDS statement does not oppose all medical use of marijuana in all places. In fact, the position is rather nuanced: the Church acknowledges that medical marijuana can be a viable treatment for some people who are suffering; it simply does not believe that this particular ballot measure is the best way to help those people without opening the door to recreational use, which it opposes. Instead, the Church advocates stricter controls, saying that medical marijuana must be prescribed by a physician and dispensed at a pharmacy.

It will be fascinating to see how this plays out. In April, a poll by the Salt Lake Tribune and the Hinckley Institute found that three-quarters of Utah voters were in favor of legalizing medical marijuana in the state—a finding that repeated almost exactly the results from that same poll being administered two previous times.

But support dropped to two-thirds of Utah voters by the time the Tribune repeated the poll in June of this year, a few weeks after the Church’s May statement.

Now that the Church’s opposition has become more transparent, it is anyone’s guess how the measure will fare come November.

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Source: Religion News Service