The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Thursday it is officially joining the fight against a ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana that will go before Utah voters this November.
Representatives of the Church joined a large coalition — which now includes the Utah PTA, law enforcement officials, lawmakers and business leaders — to urge Utahns to vote against the initiative known as Proposition 2.
The Church does not oppose cannabis prescribed by a doctor in dosage form but it does have reservations about the drug, Elder Jack Gerard, a General Authority member of the Seventy, said during a Thursday press conference at the Capitol. He was flanked by two other high ranking Church officials, Craig C. Christensen and Lisa Harkness, in announcing the Church's position.
"We are deeply concerned by the history of states that have allowed for medical or recreational use of this drug without proper controls and have experienced serious consequences to the health and the safety of their citizens," Gerard said.
Members of the coalition, called Drug Safe Utah, signed onto a statement which said that it is not opposed to medical marijuana "so long as appropriate controls and safeguards are in place."
"Proposition 2 … does not strike the appropriate balance in ensuring safe and reasonable access for patients while also protecting youth and preventing other societal harms," the statement reads.
The coalition also called on "lawmakers, patients and community stakeholders to work together to find a solution that works for all Utahns."
New opposition to Prop 2 also includes a few people who say they previously supported the initiative.
"There are shortcomings to Prop 2," said Nathan Frodsham, who used medicinal marijuana while living in Seattle, Washington. "In some ways, it goes too far, and in some ways it doesn’t go far enough."
Frodsham said he has actively advocated for legalizing medical marijuana, including with the Utah Patients Coalition, the group sponsoring Proposition 2.
"I considered [it] the only good option for patients. Good, however, is the enemy of great. I now have faith that this coalition of community leaders and patients will create something that will be better, indeed greater, for all Utahns, including patients."
Supporters of the ballot measure didn't believe the Church wanted even limited access to medical marijuana for patients suffering from illnesses like cancer, Alzheimer's and post-traumatic stress disorder.
"I'm not buying these crocodile tears from these folks that have been the chief prohibitionists in the state since Day One," said DJ Schanz, director of the Utah Patients Coalition, the initiative's sponsor.
"We feel very strongly we have what they don't," Schanz said, "which is the right messaging and the right bill."
At a press conference opposing #prop2, the medical marijuana initiative going before Utah voters this fall. They handed out a list of people and organizations joining the opposition. #utpol pic.twitter.com/9t3vC3WIMJ
— Nicole Nixon (@_Nixo) August 23, 2018