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LDS Church Considering Its Position On Medical Marijuana Referendum

Lee Hale / KUER

Advocates behind a ballot initiative to expand access to medical marijuana in Utah say they’ve met with representatives of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints about the issue.

Christine Stenquist with Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education (TRUCE) said she’s had several meetings with church representatives.

“They’re playing very close to the chest on this,” Stenquist said. “They’ve taken the information but they have not given us a response as to which direction they’re falling on it.”

A church spokesman said they do not yet have an official position on the measure. The church has called for more research into medicinal use of marijuana. In 2016, when Utah lawmakers ran two competing bills to legalize medical cannabis, the church supported the narrower proposal. Neither bill ended up passing the legislature.

Stenquist said in her meetings with church representatives, they raised concerns about the members and financial support for the groups running the ballot initiative.

“We addressed those concerns. This is very much an in-state, grassroots movement,” she said.

“I think their concern was that it was a recreational movement,” Stenquist said. “The language in the ballot initiative doesn’t indicate or give anybody reason to believe that.”

Recent polling shows two-thirds of active Mormons support legalizing medical marijuana, but the church could potentially sway voters if it came out against the initiative.

Gov. Gary Herbert said Thursday he opposes he ballot measure in favor of new laws that legalize medical cannabis only for terminally ill patients.

The Utah Patients Coalition is the group running the ballot initiative. Campaign director DJ Schanz said he’s had “two or three” private meetings with church representatives as well.

“I hope to continue to engage with the LDS church in a way that we have been,” Stenquist said, adding that she’s spoken with active church members who would prefer to use medical marijuana over opioids and other pharmaceuticals for chronic conditions.

In order to get on the ballot, groups must collect more than 113,000 signatures, representing 10 percent of registered voters in a majority of Utah’s 29 state senate districts.

The Utah Patients Coalition has submitted more than 150,000 signatures for verification to the lieutenant governor’s office and Schanz is confident the question will make it on the November ballot.

“We’re going to keep collecting signatures until the last minute” before the April 15 deadline, Schanz said.  

Nicole Nixon holds a Communication degree from the University of Utah. She has worked on and off in the KUER Newsroom since 2013, when she first joined KUER as an intern. Nicole is a Utah native. Besides public radio, she is also passionate about beautiful landscapes and breakfast burritos.
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