LDS Church opposes medical marijuana bill in the Utah State Legislature

Posted at 9:31 AM, Feb 06, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is opposing one of the medical marijuana bills being considered in the Utah State Legislature.

In a statement to FOX 13 on Saturday, the LDS Church confirmed it has expressed opposition on Utah's Capitol Hill to SB73, sponsored by Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Saratoga Springs, that would allow for so-called "whole plant" marijuana use, including THC. The Mormon faith expressed no opposition to SB89 (which allows for marijuana extract) sponsored by Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, and Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem.

"As we have said during previous legislative sessions, there are a number of potential impacts that must be considered in any discussion about the legalization of medical marijuana, including balancing medical need with the necessity of responsible controls," LDS Church spokesman Eric Hawkins said in the statement to FOX 13.

"Along with others, we have expressed concern about the unintended consequences that may accompany the legalization of medical marijuana. We have expressed opposition to Senator Madsen's bill because of that concern. We are raising no objection to the other bill that addresses this issue."

Sen. Madsen addressed the LDS Church’s statement during a visit to American Fork Hospital Saturday.

“Explain what the unintended consequences are,” Sen. Madsen said. “Have they done the research to understand that in the 23 states where this is used, that teen use has not gone up? Many studies show that.”

Sen. Madsen says he’s very familiar with medical marijuana research, having sponsored similar bills in years past. He said LDS Church could influence the bill’s chance at success in the coming weeks, and he said he hopes to speak with LDS officials for clarification on their objections.

“If somebody comes in and says, ‘no’ who has great political influence, then I think the people have the right to know why,” Sen. Madsen added.

Both SB89 and SB73 passed Senate committees earlier this week after impassioned testimony from doctors, patients and other advocates for medical marijuana. Conservative groups have expressed concerns about the bills, including questioning if it opens the door to recreational marijuana in the state.

The Senate could take up both bills in floor debates as soon as next week.

The LDS Church, a powerful institution in the state of Utah, carries some sway in the legislature, where a majority of lawmakers are members of the Mormon faith. The Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City has told FOX 13 it is not taking any position on the medical marijuana legislation presently.