Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Up On The Soap Box: The LDS Church's Position On Utah's Medical Marijuana Initiative

        I was disappointed to see the Church release a statement opposing the Utah Medical Marijuana initiative. Not so much because of the Church standing opposed to it--I expected that. No, it was because the statement was not a position statement from Church leaders, but a poorly reasoned legal memorandum from the KIRTON McCONKIE law firm in Salt Lake City. I'm offended not just by the poor legal writing exhibited in the memorandum, but because the use of the memorandum is supposed to present an aura of objectivity where none exists.

       The logic and reasoning in the memorandum is atrocious. For instance, the author of the memorandum complains that the initiative does not require a prescription, yet notes that the medical marijuana card would need to be requested by a doctor and is only good for 6 months ... which sounds pretty much like a prescription to me. Perhaps the real issue is that the marijuana will be sold by dispensaries rather than through corporate owned pharmacies. Other points are just silly, such as the argument that felons would be eligible for medical marijuana cards--as if doctors routinely withhold pain medications from felons. ("Sorry that your leg was crushed in an accident, but we can't give you anything for the pain because you are a felon. Here, have a stick to bite down on."). Or complaints that a doctor can give you a prescription after only a single visit--you know, like when you go into an emergency room or emergency care clinic with strep throat and the doctor gives you a prescription without making you come back two or three more times.

       I am also disappointed because this statement and memorandum is yet another piece of evidence that Church policy is being guided by lawyers and risk managers.

       It is also doctrinally unsound. While a prohibition on recreational use of marijuana could be supported by reference to extent scripture, there are no doctrinal grounds for opposing the use of medical marijuana. The Word of Wisdom (D&C 89) specifically states that "And again, verily I say unto you, all wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man—Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving." (D&C 89:10-11). Some may object that marijuana is not an herb (i.e., a seasoning), but it is clear from the context that by "herb," the Lord is taking a more general use of the word to indicate herbage or herbaceous plants. This can be seen by reference to verse 8 which refers to tobacco as an herb even though it is not used to season food. And marijuana is an herbaceous plant.

       Finally, it should be noted that the Church leaders are not infallible when it comes to matters of law and public policy. For instance, the Church was a strong supporter of prohibition, which had such a corrosive effect on the Constitution and empowered organized crime, while doing virtually nothing to restrict access to alcoholic beverages. The Church has also lent its support to laws giving special employment and housing rights to homosexuals (by restricting the common citizen's right to not associate) and has been supportive of policies that encourage illegal immigration.

      In short, the Church seems to have wasted both Church funds and our time by obtaining this memorandum from a law firm and posting it for us to read.

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