The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a statement expressing its opposition to a ballot initiative for the legalization of medical cannabis in the state of Utah.
In its two-paragraph statement, the LDS Church commended the Utah Medical Association for opposing the initiative. However, the church did not criticize the legalization effort explicitly.
The Salt lake City-based church said that they respect the medical doctors’ wise counsel, indicating that they agree with the medical association’s position that medical cannabis would compromise the safety and the health of communities in the state of Utah.
The ballot initiative
As CannabizDaily has reported in last month, the Utah Patients Coalition has already gathered 160,000 signatures from across the state as an essential part of its campaign to get medicinal cannabis on the ballot this November. The coalition is running this campaign to get the issue before voters and has already had 120,000 of these signatures verified by county clerks.
According to the Lt. Governor’s Office, it has already validated 117,000 of the signatures, which is already more than the needed 113,000 signatures for the initiative to qualify for the ballot.
To qualify, the initiative needs to collect a percentage of signatures in 26 of Utah’s senate districts by April 16. There are still a few districts that need some more signatures.
Read our report here.
What does the Utah Medical Association have to say?
The medical association criticized the initiative for being a de facto recreational cannabis bill. There were also many Republican state legislators who share the same sentiments, saying that the measure is going to make it very hard for the police to enforce recreational cannabis laws.
The church’s statement
The church’s governing First Presidency also stated that the interest of the public is best served when all of the new drugs that are designed to relieve illness and suffering, as well as the procedures by which these drugs are made available, undergo the scrutiny of medical experts and official approving bodies.
It can be recalled that last year, when advocates first filed the paperwork for their ballot initiative with the state, LDS Church spokesperson Eric Hawkins said that they believe that society can best be served by requiring cannabis to undergo further research and to go through the proper FDA approval process just like all other drugs before doctors are allowed to prescribe it.
The church’s statement marks the very first time that the church has officially weighed in on the medical cannabis issue. It is also the first time that the church has expressed its support for arguments that were made by any of the relevant parties who have discussed the merits of the ballot initiative.
LDS Church President Russell M. Nelson is an internationally acclaimed heart surgeon.
Utah Patients Coalition respond to the statement
As response to the church’s statement, Dr. Dan Cottam of the Utah Patients Coalition said that as a member of the Utah Medical Association as well as of its legislative policy committee, he was never consulted about his position on medical cannabis. Cottam is a medical adviser for the campaign.
Cottam said that just like many of his physician colleagues, he likes having the option of getting his patients legal access to cannabis as remedy for their condition. According to him, there is a big body of scientific literature supporting the use of cannabis for medical purposes.
Cottam pointed out that the Medical Association’s position “does not reflect anything more than the opinion of its board.”
He added that the position is far from being based on science or research, and it is not a consensus of the doctors they claim to represent. Their position does not speak for doctors like him who are ready to provide this drug to patients.