Top leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came out against a ballot initiative seeking to legalize marijuana for medical use, warning that it would “compromise the health and safety of Utah communities.”
A two-paragraph statement issued by the church Tuesday commended the Utah Medical Association (UMA) for opposing the initiative. Gov. Gary Herbert also recently said he will fight the initiative.
“We respect the wise counsel of the medical doctors of Utah,” the church’s first presidency said. Church President Russell M. Nelson is an acclaimed heart surgeon.
“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 statement continued.
Debate over the initiative, which seeks to more broadly legalize medical cannabis for patients suffering from chronic conditions and pain, is ramping up. It’s expected to meet the threshold for more than 113,000 signatures from 26 of Utah’s 29 senate districts ahead of the April 15 deadline.
The UMA, which represents thousands of physicians across the state, accused the Utah Patients Coalition, the group behind the initiative, of spreading false information about how, and how much, medical marijuana doctors could prescribe. .
“Utah’s physician community is greatly interested in discovering the legitimate medical uses of cannabis-based medicines, but the Utah initiative is not the way to do it. Real science takes time and careful, unbiased research,” the statement read.
Some physicians say the UMA doesn’t speak for them.
“As a member of the Utah Medical Association and its legislative policy committee, I was never consulted about my position on the medical use of cannabis,” said Dan Cottam, a physician who also serves as medical advisor to the Utah Patients Coalition.
“UMA’s position reflects nothing more than the opinion of its board,” Cottam said.
Recent polling shows a majority of Utahns support the measure, including two-thirds of active Mormons. It’s unclear if or how drastically the LDS Church’s statement against the initiative will affect those numbers.