In new reports coming out of the Beehive State, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints—commonly known as the Mormon Church—has voiced opposition to a bill that would allow Utah medical marijuana.
The bill, which has been spearheaded largely by Senator Mark Madsen, would make Utah the 24th state to legalize the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes.
Utah’s medical marijuana movement has been making headlines in recent months, especially after a survey revealed that 61 percent of all Utahns actively support such a law.
Despite popular support, however, local news sources have indicated that the Mormon Church has begun ramping up its opposition to Madsen’s bill.
The Church has, however, not opposed a different bill that would allow patients to use cannabis extracts, but that would continue to outlaw the use of cannabis buds.
The Mormon Church, which is headquartered in Salt Lake City, has historically had a significant influence on Utah politics. Roughly 60 percent of the state identifies as members of the church, and many Utah lawmakers are Mormon.
“Along with others, we have expressed concern about the unintended consequences that may accompany the legalization of medical marijuana,” Church spokesperson Eric Hawkins said.
“We have expressed opposition to Senator Madsen’s bill because of that concern. We are raising no objection to the other bill that addresses this issue.”
But Madsen said the Church has not been clear on why it opposes his bill.
“I asked them, ‘Can we have some kind of a productive, meaningful conversation?'” Madsen told reporters.
“And each time they just said, ‘You know the difference between the other bill. It’s not the other bill.’ So I say, ‘THC?’ And I get a vague nod.”
Madsen said the Mormon Church employs a team of lobbyists to represent the Church’s interests in local government, and that when the Church speaks out on an issue, it usually has significant influence.
“If they’re going to put their thumb on the scale politically and force everyone to a standard, then I think they owe something of an explanation to the people,” Madsen said.
In addition to surveys finding popular support for the move to legalize medical marijuana, a group of Utah moms have made national headlines recently in their efforts to secure access to medical cannabis.
Sarah Ellett has come under fire from the Utah Division of Child and Family Services for treating her daughter’s panhypopituitarism—a rare disorder affecting the pituitary gland—with cannabis oil, which she says is the only effective treatment she’s found for her daughter so far.
Similarly, Enedina Stanger faced charges of child endangerment when she began using cannabis to treat her Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.
Stanger said that marijuana is the first thing to provide consistent relief from the pain her condition causes. She and her family have since moved to Colorado, where she can legally access medicinal cannabis.