SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has responded to two pieces of legislation currently up for debate in the legislature.
Friday night the Church released the following statement:
“As we have said during previous legislation sessions, there are a number of potential impacts that must be considered in any discussion about the legalization of medical marijuana, including balancing medical need with the necessity of responsible controls,” LDS spokesman Eric Hawkins said in a statement to ABC4 News.
“Along with others, we have expressed concern about the unintended consequences that may accompany the legalization of medical marijuana. We have expressed opposition to Senator Madsen’s bill because of that concern. We are raising no objection to the other bill that addresses this issue.”
The passage of two bills in committee hearings this week prompted this response from the Church. The response has many on social media talking.
Jasen Morgan writes, “Might as well forget about it, Mormon Church wont allow it, so that’s the end of it.”
And Sherri Jacobs adds, “We all know the bill we need is the one the Church will stop. It shouldn’t be that way. That means thousands of us will get no help, and will have to keep taking opiates for their pain.”
But some like Turner Bitton, President of the Drug Policy Project of Utah , don’t take the Church’s opposition as a sign of defeat in the legislature.
“The LDS Church is an important stake holder in this conversation, we’re glad they’ve lended this voice to this conversation, we’re a little bit discouraged to what the statement said but, what we didn’t hear is a resounding no,” says Bitton.
The LDS Church is only taking opposition with one of the bills, according to their statement. Senate Bill 73, sponsored by Senator Mark Madsen, would make the legalization of full plant medical marijuana for certain conditions. But, the Church has no issue with Senate Bill 89, sponsored by Senator Vickers and Representative Daw, which would expand who could have access to cannabidiol.
Bitton says the Church’s strong religious and cultural influence in the state is especially important to bring to the conversation. As this debate is being played out within our communities, he sites an example of when the Church and the law worked together to bring compromise.
“You look at what happened earlier in 2015 when Equality Utah and the LDS Church got together and created a compromised piece of legislation to protect LGBT Utahns from discrimination, you know that was years in the making, it took a lot of conversation and so, you really have to take a long game,” added Bitton.
He says, opposition now or a statement of concern doesn’t mean that it will be that way. At the moment, it seems, according to Bitton, that the LDS Church wants more research to further the discussion.