Mormons Are Divided Over Fate of Medical Marijuana In Utah

In November, Utah voters will decide the fate of Proposition 2 - a ballot initiative that would join the 31 other US states that have legalized medical marijuana. Despite the support of many Mormons, the effort may be blocked by opposition from the extremely powerful Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The church has remained silent on the issue of medical marijuana for a long time, but took a public stance back in April after releasing a statement in support of the Utah Medical Association, a group of doctors who released a memo opposing the measure.

Building off of that, the Church cautioned that the initiative would "compromise the health and safety of Utah communities," and present significant challenges for local law enforcement.

This is in the face of overwhelming support of medical marijuana on behalf of two-thirds of Utah voters (60 percent of whom identify as Mormon). This is especially remarkable considering Utah was among the first states to ban the substance in 1915, after Mormon church members returned from missions in Mexico.

The Church has had long-standing political sway in the state. While individual Mormons often differ with Church policy, the Church has a long history of weighing in on social issues, such as opposing measures to legalize same-sex marriage and supporting an initiative to create the lowest blood-alcohol limit for driving in the country.

Speaking with the Los Angeles Times, medical marijuana patient Brian Stoll said that in order to get married in the Mormon temple, he was told that he had to give up using pot. Stoll had been using the drug to treat a back injury, after becoming fearful that his opioid usage would lead to an addiction.

Now, due to the Church’s stance on cannabis, Stoll has been forced to return to opioids to deal with his pain.

It remains to be seen if the official position of the church will have enough influence to turn the tides of public opinion in the state, although this question should find its definitive answer come November.

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