As Utah is poised to put a medical marijuana initiative on the ballot, the Mormon church has come out strongly in opposition to state-sanctioned use of the drug to treat health conditions.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) issued a memorandum prepared by the church's regular legal firm, Kirton McConkie, with 31 different "legal issues" supporting its stance against allowing marijuana for medicinal use.
The required 200,000 signatures to put the ballot initiative to voters in November was submitted for review on April 16, according to The Associated Press. The church said in April, two days after the signatures pushing for the initiative to be added to the ballot were submitted, that it did not support the move.
In a statement, the church said it has “grave concerns about this initiative and the serious adverse consequences that could follow if it were adopted.”
Among the 31 issues with the initiative: it will allow some people to grow their own marijuana, it will create significant challenges for law enforcement, dispensaries will be allowed to give free samples to card holders, people with prior convictions will be allowed to get a card, it does not require a person to get a doctor's prescription, marijuana will become more accessible to minors, and dispensaries need only to be located 600 feet from schools, churches and playgrounds.
Utah’s Republican Governor Gary Herbert has also voiced concerns regarding the proposal, saying it “lacks important safeguards regarding its production and utilization and would potentially open the door to recreational use.”
"We need to be cautious as we test and introduce cannabis into our formulary," he added. "I believe the consequences of this initiative, even if they are unintended, will do more harm than good."
But the Utah Patients Coalition, which led the effort to put the measure on the ballot, believes legalizing medical marijuana will do immense good for those who would benefit:
"This plant can help those suffering from conditions such as cancer, epilepsy, autism, PTSD, AIDS, MS, ALS, Crohn’s, chronic pain and more — and after a successful vote in November, thousands of Utahns suffering from these conditions will no longer have to fear punishment from their government simply because they are looking for relief and healing," DJ Schanz, a member of the Utah Patients Coalition, said in a statement.