SALT LAKE CITY – The Mormon church has come out against a Utah bill that would allow the medical use of edible pot products, a position that could be a serious blow to one of two medical marijuana proposals before state lawmakers.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said leaders are worried about the unintended consequences of the measure proposed by Republican Sen. Mark Madsen of Eagle Mountain. A majority of Utah lawmakers are members of the Salt Lake City-based faith, and the church's position on an issue can be decisive.
The church doesn't object to another, more restrictive medical marijuana bill that would allow access to a marijuana-infused oil, church spokesman Eric Hawkins said in a statement.
Madsen told The Salt Lake Tribune that church lobbyists told him and legislative leaders about their opposition, but declined to explain their reasoning.
"Maybe they don't want to be known as the special interest who put their thumb on the scale and decided this for everyone in the state," Madsen told the newspaper. "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."
Both medical marijuana bills have gotten committee approval and are expected to be debated before the full Utah Senate within the next week.
Madsen's proposal would allow tens of thousands of residents with chronic or debilitating conditions access to edible products, but ban smoking pot. Madsen argues Utah should join more than 20 other states that have passed medical marijuana programs. But some Republicans have already said they worry the plan is too broad. The measure died by one vote as last year.
The other marijuana proposal would allow a few thousand people diagnosed with cancer, HIV and other conditions to use a marijuana-infused oil. The cannabidiol oil is made from a strain of the cannabis plant that's low in THC, the hallucinogenic chemical in marijuana, and high in CBD, a chemical that some believe helps fight seizures. A restricted law passed two years ago allowed those with severe epilepsy to have the extract oil if they get it in other states like Colorado.
The plan sponsored by Sen. Evan Vickers of Cedar City and Rep. Brad Daw of Orem, both Republicans, would set up strict controls on licensing and tracking of those approved to produce and dispense the oil. Doctors recommending the treatment would be registered with the state and undergo training, and their patients would be issued a medical cannabidiol card.
The Utah Medical Association supports that proposal, but some people suffering from chronic pain criticize it. They argue their health conditions don't qualify or that they need treatment from products that include higher levels of THC.