Mormon Leaders at Odds Over Medical Marijuana Legalization in Utah

In November, Utahns will head to the polls and vote on medical marijuana legalization.

More than 60% of Utah residents identify as Mormon, a subset of Christianity in which drinking, smoking tobacco, using illegal drugs, and even consuming coffee and tea are all strictly forbidden. Under the church’s lifestyle guidelines, called the Word of Wisdom, marijuana is not mentioned specifically, and instead merely grouped in with other illicit narcotics. With strong, addiction-inducing prescription drugs like opioids and barbiturates allowed by church leaders, Mormons dealing with chronic pain and other similar ailments are weary of the church’s quick judgement. “People are being prescribed pills but can’t use something natural.”

In neighboring states like Colorado and Nevada, a number of Mormon Church leaders have embraced open cannabis users, refusing to punish followers who find solace in a natural medicine that is legal by state law. “This is something that if I drive east or west – to Colorado or Nevada – is 100% legal and helpful to my situation. We’re not talking about recreational. This is simply for medical.”

Under the cannabis reform initiative’s current structure, qualified Utahns would be able to purchase up to two ounces of medical marijuana every two weeks, but would still be restricted from smoking, made to either vaporize, eat, or otherwise ingest the medication. Still, despite those safeguards, Mormon leaders have repeatedly disseminated anti-cannabis statements claiming the proposal would pose “Significant challenges for law enforcement,” and compromise the health and safety of the state.

And with public support for cannabis reform at an all-time high, in Utah and around the country, Mormon cannabis advocates like Schanz are not surprised to see push back from the church, but expect to see an even greater embrace of common sense cannabis reform in the fall.

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