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Latter-day Saint leaders join coalition: Yes on medical marijuana, no on marijuana initiative

By Ben Lockhart, KSL | Posted - Aug 23rd, 2018 @ 6:42pm


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SALT LAKE CITY — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints joined a broad coalition of medical professionals, community leaders and lawmakers Thursday to urge defeat of Utah's medical marijuana initiative.

But the coalition also said it does not "object to marijuana derivatives being used in medicinal form — so long as appropriate controls and safeguards are in place."

"The church does not object to the medicinal use of marijuana, if doctor-prescribed, in dosage form from a licensed pharmacy," said Elder Jack N. Gerard, a General Authority Seventy with the church.

Watch the full livestream of the press conference above.

But Elder Gerard said the church is "deeply concerned" that the initiative does not contain "proper controls" on marijuana use, and also has worries about other states having "experienced serious consequences to the health and safety of" their residents due to marijuana laws that are too permissive.

Elder Gerard also urged Utahns to vote no on the initiative.

"We call on lawmakers, patients and community leaders to come together to find an appropriate solution to benefit all Utahns," he said.

The Utah Medical Association, as well as Drug Safe Utah — a political issues committee formed to directly oppose the initiative — were also on hand to announce the new coalition and criticize the ballot measure as a bad solution for Utahns.

Both groups have previously slammed the initiative as a loosely regulated policy measure making recreational use possible.

"The marijuana initiative appearing as Proposition 2 on the ballot this November does not strike the appropriate balance in ensuring safe and reasonable access for patients while also protecting youth and preventing other societal harms," Utah Medical Association CEO Michelle McOmber said in a statement on behalf of the coalition.

"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."

Also listed as members of the new coalition were Reps. Rob Bishop and Chris Stewart, both R-Utah, as well as U.S. Senate hopeful Mitt Romney, the Utah Episcopal Diocese, Utah Hospital Association, Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes, and state Senate President Wayne Niederhauser.

The Utah Medical Association has also previously contended not enough is currently known about how to prescribe marijuana in order to justify legalizing its medical use.

The initiative campaign, called the Utah Patients Coalition, has argued that research into medical marijuana is robust enough to justify giving patients suffering with pain an opportunity to use it. Initiative backers have also said its regulations on medical marijuana use are among the most rigorous proposed in the country.

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The initiative generally permits patients with several illnesses, including cancer, Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, and post-traumatic stress disorder, to be recommended a medical cannabis card by a physician. Cardholders could then purchase up to a certain amount of marijuana at a state-licensed dispensary.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often called by some the Mormon church, earlier expressed reservations about the medical marijuana initiative, saying in a statement in May that a legal analysis it commissioned regarding the measure "raises grave concerns" over "the serious adverse consequences that could follow if it were adopted."

"We invite all to read (the analysis) and to make their own judgment," the church's statement said at the time.

In April, the First Presidency of the church also issued a statement praising the Utah Medical Association for an earlier statement that the trade organization had made opposing the initiative.

"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," the First Presidency said at the time.

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