Aaron Hawkins

Mormon Church leaders have continued to campaign against Proposition 2, Utah’s medical cannabis ballot measure, but have issued statements indicating they might support medical cannabis legislation created in a special session, according to the Associated Press.

The Church of Latter-Day Saints has been funding the campaign against Proposition 2 since well before they announced their opposition to the measure.

Drug Safe Utah, an umbrella organization for the various opponents of Prop. 2, has taken funds from the Mormon Church. The organization filed suit on behalf of Mormon attorney Walter J. Plumb in an attempt to remove Prop. 2 from the ballot by arguing it infringed on Plumb’s religious freedoms. That case is still pending but cannabis advocates in the state are optimistic.

Following that case, however, the Mormon Church announced its formal opposition to Prop 2. The Church urged parishioners to vote against the measure, saying that it was against the Mormon “Word of Wisdom.” Meanwhile, Drug Safe Utah began running inaccurate radio ads which incurred a formal complaint from the measure’s proponents.

The Mormon Church’s campaign against Proposition 2 does not seem to have swayed voters much, however. A poll released in September showed that public support for the medical cannabis initiative remained largely unchanged with 64 percent of respondents in support of the measure.

Now, the Mormon Church is attempting to re-frame its opposition to Prop. 2 in terms specific to the ballot measure. The Church claims that it is not opposed to medical cannabis prescribed by a doctor, but that it is only concerned about the language of Proposition 2.

“There is urgency. This isn’t ‘let’s wait till next year to have a conversation,'” said Elder Jack N. Gerard, Executive Director of PR for the Church. “It needs to be dealt with soon. There’s an urgency to accomplish this. … With this coalition, we’re calling on public officials to act and act promptly.”

However, lawmakers are not optimistic about the Legislature’s ability to draft — and much less pass — a workable medical cannabis bill. In fact, Proposition 2 exists in part because of the Utah Legislature’s failure to act on the public support for medical cannabis, which pushed advocates to collect signatures for a legalization initiative. State Rep. Brian King (D-District 28), leader of the House minority party, said that Proposition 2 is the only likely path to medical cannabis reform.

“Proposition 2 is flawed, in some ways very flawed, but I’m voting for it because if we vote it down, I think the likelihood that the state Legislature will come back and put in place meaningful medical marijuana is slim and none.” — Rep. Brian King, via Deseret News

King also said he wondered why the largely Republican Utah legislature would feel pressure to draft and pass a medical cannabis law if voters didn’t show support for one on the ballot. The Office of the Governor has also indicated that a special session would only be likely if there was clear consensus on a bill (and there isn’t even a bill, yet).

Utah voters in November will have to decide whether the Mormon Church is sincere in its desire to see medical cannabis laws passed in the state, or if this is only a delaying tactic aimed at reducing voter support for Proposition 2.

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