‘Marijuana is a gift from God:’ Mormons embattled over medicinal weed
The battle over legalized marijuana may have just found a rather unlikely ally as members of the Mormon Church are becoming increasingly more vocal in their support. To be clear, those who support legalization do so only for medicinal purposes. Recreational use is still prohibited for members of the Church of Latter Day Saints.
The LA Times is breaking the story which seemingly begins over a member’s desire to get married within the church. The trouble is that Mr. Brian Stoll has a long history of using medical marijuana as a therapy for severe back pain. If he wanted to get married in the temple, then church elders demanded that he give up his weed since marijuana is illegal in the state of Utah.
“This was devastating ... I had to choose between my health and my fiancée. It seemed asinine that if I lived in another state, I wouldn't have to make such a difficult decision,” Stoll states in the LA Times report.
Still, Stoll agreed and started a pot-free lifestyle for about three years. As an alternative treatment, he opted for a more conventional choice of doctor-prescribed opiates. However, the substitute came with some rather unpleasant side effects and lacked the “soothing” medicinal benefits of cannabis.
Will Mormons support of ballot measure to legalize marijuana?
The midterm elections in Utah will contain a ballot measure to legalize marijuana named Proposition 2, and according to a poll conducted by the Salt Lake Tribune-Hinckley Institute of Politics, about two-thirds of Utahans support it (voting “yes” means the voter favors marijuana legalization). Meanwhile, approximately 60 percent of Utah voters also identify as Mormons. Due to this massive demographic overlap, church leaders were seemingly being forced to address the issue head-on whether they want to or not.
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The Mormon Church can no longer remain silent. It will have to take a stand, but in which direction will it lean? Taking a public stance on controversial political issues is nothing new for the Church of Latter Day Saints. In 2008, church leaders came out in favor of California legislation banning same-sex marriage. The bill would pass but would eventually be overturned.
Based on this previous history, one might expect the Mormon Church to aggressively oppose the legalization of marijuana. But there’s a glitch. The Book of Mormon contains the following passage.
“And there were some who died with fevers, which at some seasons of the year were very frequent in the land — but not so much so with fevers, because of the excellent qualities of the many plants and roots which God had prepared to remove the cause of diseases, to which men were subject by the nature of the climate.”
While the religious passage does not specifically reference marijuana, it does seemingly support its use for medicinal purposes. However, since church doctrine also disallows the use of alcohol, tobacco, coffee, tea, and “illegal drugs,” smoking pot for recreational use would still be still considered a no-no.
It’s that term “illegal drugs” that is causing all the debate and confusion. While the above passage seems to favor the use of medical marijuana, church doctrine does not allow the usage of any “illegal drugs” by its membership. The Mormon Church is apparently caught in a religious and political conundrum.
Mr. Stoll, on the other hand, remains unchanged in his opinion. After all, if he only lived in another state where pot was already legal, church officials would allow him to use it for medicinal purposes. Why should he have to relocate his family to another state simply because of the foolish laws of man?
Church officials are also taking note of the recent approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration of a cannabis-based drug called Epidiolex as a treatment for two forms of severe epilepsy. Will the Mormon Church come out in favor of or opposition to Proposition 2 this November?
Utah Governor Gary Herbert – both a Republican and a member of the Mormon Church – is against the pending legislation, expressing concerns for further medical research. However, according to the LA Times, many “sympathetic local church leaders” in Mormon communities located in states where marijuana is already legal are openly supportive of Utah’s Proposition 2.
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