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Race, Religion & Social Justice

Medical Marijuana Proponents May Bypass Utah Legislature with Ballot Initiative

Andrea Smardon
Caryn Terres at the Utah Capitol to advocate for medical marijuana with her son, Alexander.

Medical marijuana advocates are regrouping after LDS Church authorities announced their opposition to a bill that would make whole-plant access legal in Utah. Proponents convened at the Capitol Tuesday to talk about an effort to let the voters decide.

Brian Stoll of West Jordan says he’s been in constant pain for four years. He was a student at BYU when he fell 12 feet, breaking his back and neck. He doesn’t like taking opiate painkillers which he says are addictive, expensive, and have adverse side effects. Marijuana, though, helps him function. Stoll says when LDS leaders came out against a bill that would have allowed him legal access, he was caught off guard.

“It was surprising to me because I have friends in other states, in California and Colorado, mission friends of mine, who are good members of the Church, they’re in good standing, and they’re able to have temple recommends and use medical cannabis under the direction of their doctor,” Stoll says. He says he’s no longer using marijuana.

Stoll wanted to get married in the temple last year, and his bishop told him he had to stop. “He felt that his hands were tied, that he couldn’t give me a temple recommend because it was illegal. He was frank and he said I really hope this does pass in January when the legislature meets so you can find relief from your pain and also be able to work.”

Stoll says if the legislature won’t pass a bill that allows him to use marijuana legally, he will be gathering signatures to get an initiative on the ballot. Caryn Terres says she will also join the effort.

“I will be in Cottonwood Heights begging my neighbors to help because I for one am sick and tired of burying my friends from opiate and heroin overdose,” she says. “I buried four friends last year.”

Terres, who has fibromyalgia and is raising two children, says she’s working on mobilizing stay-at-home moms. “Every voice does really matter, and we need to make sure that every mom stuck in her kitchen understands that.”

To get an initiative on the November ballot, organizers need to collect more than 101,000 signatures statewide by April 15th.

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