In this June 21, 2018, file photo, a laboratory manager holds a cannabis sample in Oakland, Calif. The Mormon church is backing a deal that would legalize medical marijuana in Utah, even if the ballot initiative fails in the November election. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

Mormon church backs deal to allow medical marijuana in Utah

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Mormon church joined lawmakers, the governor and advocates to back a deal Thursday (Oct. 4) that would legalize medical marijuana in conservative Utah after months of fierce debate.

The compromise comes as people prepare to vote in November on an insurgent medical marijuana ballot initiative that held its ground despite opposition from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Gov. Gary Herbert said he'll call lawmakers into a special session after the midterm election to pass the compromise into law regardless of how the initiative fares. If it passes, it will be revised under the terms of the deal. It if fails, the Legislature would consider a law under the new framework.

The agreement in such a conservative state underscores the nation's changing attitude toward marijuana.

Medical use now is legal in more than 30 states and also is on the November ballot in Missouri. So-called recreational marijuana goes before voters in Michigan and North Dakota. If passed, it will be a first for a Midwestern state.

The Utah-based faith had opposed the ballot proposal over fears it could lead to more broad use, but ranking global leader Jack Gerard said the church is "thrilled" to be a part of the effort to "alleviate human pain and suffering."

Though it still must go to a vote, the deal has the key backing of both the church and leaders of the Republican-dominated Legislature, who said the regulations in the hard-won agreement have their seal of approval. Unlike the ballot initiative, the compromise won't allow people to grow their own marijuana if they live too far from a dispensary. It also doesn't allow certain types of edible marijuana that could appeal to children, such as cookies and brownies.

"I will do everything in my power to ensure this compromise passes in the special session," said Utah Senate president Wayne Niederhauser.

Medical marijuana advocates are backing the deal to avoid wrangling and uncertainty that could continue if the ballot initiative passes.

"There will be medical cannabis here in our day in Utah," said advocate DJ Schanz. The two sides agreed to scale back media campaigns supporting and opposing the ballot measure known as Proposition 2.

Not all medical-marijuana advocates were convinced: Christine Stenquist with the group Truce said she remains skeptical about the deal and urged continued support for the ballot proposal.

Smoking marijuana would not be allowed under the ballot proposal. It instead allows edible forms, lotions or electronic cigarettes.

While The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints opposed the ballot measure, leaders also made first-ever public statement supporting the use of medical marijuana if prescribed by a doctor and dispensed by a pharmacy. The church's positions carry outsized sway in its home state.

The faith had long frowned upon medical marijuana use because of a key church health code called the "Word of Wisdom," which prohibits coffee as well as alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs.

(Lindsay Whitehurst writes for The Associated Press.)


  1. Seems that both “sides” on the issue of medical marijuana have reached a compromise for Utah. Here is hoping the state legislature recognizes the give/take that is occurring and doesn’t go all whompy. The LDS have agreed to legalization if “prescribed by a doctor and dispensed by a pharmacy. ” I do worry about people who may need medical marijuana but live in more rural areas where pharmacies are far away. I also worry that the price can be manipulated by the few who are allowed to grow and make the medicinal extract – making it more expensive than it needs to be and out of the reach of some who need it. We have an increasing problem in the rural areas of the state where I live with hospitals and pharmacies leaving small towns and counties, with high drug prices, with insurance that limits where people can go for medical care and the drugs their doctors can prescribe.

    BUT – this is a good beginning on a narrow issue.

  2. Why is a religious community in on making the laws? And do they get 10%?

  3. my question is, are the revenues collected from the sale of this hazardous drug going to be sufficient to cover the medical costs of those harmed by it, or children in the presence of those smoking it?
    Doctors recommend that no one under 25 should smoke the drug because there isn’t enough research to show the harm that it does to children – like children who smoke the drug are more likely to have mental illness than those who are not inhaling the substance, how is impairs a yet growing body.

    “Cannabis should not be used if you:

    are under the age of 25

    are allergic to any cannabinoid or to smoke

    have serious liver, kidney, heart or lung disease

    have a personal or family history of serious mental disorders such as schizophrenia, psychosis, depression, or bipolar disorder

    are pregnant, are planning to get pregnant, or are breast-feeding

    are a man who wishes to start a family

    have a history of alcohol or drug abuse or substance dependence

    Talk to your health care practitioner if you have any of these conditions. There may be other conditions where this product should not be used, but which are unknown due to limited scientific information.”

  4. “However, scientific study of the chemicals in marijuana, called cannabinoids, has led to two FDA-approved medications that contain cannabinoid chemicals in pill form. Continued research may lead to more medications.”

    The drug does not have to be smoked. There are alternatives. I do not know what limits Utah may have placed on the form in which “medical marijuana” will be made available in pharmacies. Doctors must, however, prescribe it .

    One of the reasons there has been support for legalizing medical marijuana is to help children who have seizures, helps control pain and improve appetite for this with cancer and other diseases. (There are a list of medical issues helped by using medical marijuana on sites like webmd.) I entirely agree that anyone who uses marijuana for medical purposes needs to be under close medical supervision.

    As with any drug, there are tradeoffs, warnings of potential dangers. However, the decision is best made by the patient and his/her doctor, because there are dangers for not attending to the medical issues that medical marijuana may be able to address.

  5. I suggest you read the links I have provided

  6. I suggest you search more widely. There is good that can come from making medical marijuana available.

  7. I’m sure hemlock and cyanide are useful at times also, but I don’t recommend them either.

  8. It’s unfortunately true that good quality research on the medical benefits of marijuana is lacking. But at the same time, the enormous amount of anecdotal “evidence” suggests very strongly that medical marijuana does have lots of benefits, with very few drawbacks.

    (And I wonder if those folks who have been suffering, prayed for relief. But that’s a subject for another time.)

    If Mormon Utahns start experiencing benefits from medical marijuana, with no drawbacks, I wonder how (if) that will affect their views about the church.

    NOTE: here’s a fact from decades ago that may shed some light on this matter: Utah voted for the REPEAL of prohibition, despite the position of the church that they should not vote for repeal.

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