Mormon church raises ‘grave concerns’ with Utah medical marijuana proposal

The Mormon church on Friday doubled down against an initiative to legalize medical marijuana within Utah, outlining its concerns in a seven-page memorandum that raised dozens of complaints involving a proposed ballot measure currently being considered by election officials.

Compiled by the church’s regular legal firm, Kirton McConkie, the memorandum “raises grave concerns about this initiative and the serious adverse consequences that could follow if it were adopted,” the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said in a statement Friday.

The LSD Church previously issued a brief statement opposing efforts to legalize medical marijuana within Utah after supporters of the initiative submitted enough signatures needed to secure its spot on the November ballot last month.

Friday’s memorandum expands significantly on the church’s initial two-paragraph explanation, however, and contains 31 specifics reasons why it opposes legalization, ranging from “significant challenges” it could potentially pose to law enforcement, to concerns involving the proposed process for becoming an authorized medical marijuana user.

“The negative effects and consequences of marijuana use on individuals, families and society at large are well-known,” the church said in a statement Friday. “There are also those who claim that it has medicinal benefits for those in some circumstances.”

“We invite all to read the attached memorandum and to make their own judgment,” the statement said.

The Utah Patients Coalition, a group behind the ballot measure, said in a statement Friday that it looks forward to rebutting the Mormon church’s “fear-based arguments.”

“Current law has ‘serious adverse consequences’ for thousands of sick patients who are either illegally using cannabis to improve their health, or those who want to but suffer to obey the law. Our tightly controlled proposal — one of the most conservative in the country — preserves the doctor-patient relationship and ensures that those who need this God-given plant for medicinal purposes can use it without fear of criminal punishment,” the group said in a statement.

The office of Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer J. Cox has unofficially verified more than enough signatures to secure a spot on the November ballot for the medical marijuana legalization measure, though an opposition group is actively challenging their efforts before a deadline Tuesday, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.

If added to the ballot and approved by voters, the initiative would allow medical marijuana dispensaries to operate within Utah. The measure would prohibit card holders from smoking cannabis, however, and instead patients would be allow to consume marijuana in other forms, such as by ingesting edibles and vaporizing weed.

About two-thirds of Utah residents belong to the Mormon church, including Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican who has opposed the ballot measure.

“I believe the consequences of this initiative, even if they are unintended, will do more harm than good,” Mr. Herbert said previously.

Twenty-nine states and D.C. have passed medical marijuana legislation, including nine with laws in place permitting recreational, or “adult use” marijuana.

Marijuana is considered a Schedule 1 controlled substance prohibited under federal law.

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