The effort to change Utah’s marijuana laws has been a slowly rising tide in recent years as the Legislature considered proposals and ultimately enacted only minimal reforms.
Due to a citizen initiative that will likely go before voters this fall, Utah appears ready for a tidal wave of change regarding medicinal cannabis. A March poll commissioned by UtahPolicy.com indicates that three-quarters of adult Utahns somewhat or strongly support “legalizing doctor-prescribed use of non-smoking medical marijuana.” The poll, conducted by Dan Jones & Associates, also found that two-thirds of “very active” Mormons supported legalization.
While it appears that the medical marijuana train is about to leave the station, some very powerful forces hope to disrupt the timetable. One opponent is Gov. Gary Herbert, who vowed to “actively oppose” the initiative and worried its consequences “will do more harm than good.”
Another force is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — certainly one of the most powerful institutions in Utah. The LDS Church didn’t expressly condemn the initiative, but a statement from the First Presidency last week commended the Utah Medical Association’s caution that “the proposed Utah marijuana initiative would compromise the health and safety of Utah communities.”
As a private institution, it’s certainly appropriate for the church to express itself on issues that concern it. We also know that when the church speaks, a lot of people — from lawmakers to everyday people — listen. The church’s statement on the initiative may reverberate all the way to November.
With that said, we question why the LDS Church is opting to intervene in the marijuana debate at this time. As an organization that spans the country and the world, there have been countless opportunities to weigh in as any of 29 other states legalized medical marijuana. As of 2010, the