How will the Church respond to increasingly legal marijuana?

This is a guest post by Mormontarian, who describes himself as “a radical free choice advocate and otherwise chill dude living in flyover country. He’s ready for the current Sunday School program to follow home teaching and High Priests’ Group into history.”

Oklahoma just legalized weed.

On 26 June the state of Oklahoma, where I live, held a primary election. As with any primary, there were different ballots printed based on party affiliation. The Republican primary ballot my wife got handed was pretty busy, as one might expect in a state sometimes called “the buckle of the bible belt”. Lots of action there. My own Libertarian ballot only had three names on it, as the party is only contesting the Governor’s race this go-round.

But every Oklahoma voter also got a bonus ballot this time, to vote on State Question 788 regarding medical marijuana. The question passed with 57% of the vote statewide. This passage came in spite of a huge push from a law enforcement and medical coalition that spent half a million dollars on ads demonizing the measure in the most furrowed-brow we-know-better manner possible.

And demonize it they did. We were told that it was just “recreational” marijuana in disguise (it’s too broad!). We were told that the police would have to retrain or retire all their beloved drug dogs (won’t you think of the dogs!?). We were told people would spark up in restaurants and the state’s smoking laws wouldn’t apply (no one will be able to do anything about it!). We were told that it was horrible that a license card would last 2 years before you had to see the doctor again (imagine not having to visit a doctor for a follow-up for two years!). We were told that the measure would allow veterinarians to prescribe marijuana to people (they’re “doctors” too!). It got absurd.

And it passed anyway, in an election that saw abnormally heavy turnout considering it was otherwise a primary election in a non-presidential year. In theory, the state health department now has 30 days to get a licensing scheme into place, and 60 days before they have to start issuing licenses. A marijuana specialty clinic opened in Tulsa before the polls even closed, even though they won’t be able to write actual prescriptions for months.

Over 30 states have now approved medical marijuana. Eight have approved recreational use. This trend isn’t going away. Is this just the latest sprouting of weeds (if you know what I mean) in the pure garden of America? Or is this really not that big a deal and the squares are overblowing the danger of a harmless plant? Or is this something that needs to be addressed in a nuanced way? What are we, as Latter-Day Saints operating under longstanding proscriptions from the Word of Wisdom, to make of this?

I’ve got some thoughts.

Obviously I’m not in charge (and I’ll be the first one to express thanks for that). But let’s have a reminder about good ol’ Oliver Cowdery. Specifically, let’s talk about the divine advice he got in Doctrine & Covenants 9:8:

“But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.”

We’re clearly advised (one might even say commanded) to study a thing “out” (or if you prefer, “thoroughly”), and then pray about our conclusion. It’s a lesson that cannot be repeated enough. How does this apply here?

Right off the bat, taking a moment to study a thing may reveal that your initial impression of the thing may have been incomplete or flawed. What is becoming increasingly clear is that, notwithstanding decades of outright fearmongering about it, cannabis has demonstrable and legitimate medicinal properties. Research into the full extent of those benefits is not yet complete, and as a new thing there are also surely some promised benefits of cannabis that are total bunk. We’ll find that out (as well as get specifics on its infamous drawbacks) as time goes by and a clear examination of the plant’s applications continues. But bringing it out of the shadows is the first step in genuinely evaluating it, so I can’t fault the Oklahoma voters for choosing to do so.

It’s incumbent on us to be studying marijuana. And we’re not the only ones. Given the direction this is going across the U.S. and Canada (check out Netflix’s new show, Cooking on High, but not with your kids), I also fully expect that we’re going to get a clarification of some kind relating to the Word of Wisdom in the next few years. I presume it will hit a series of points like these:

· The Word of Wisdom specifically describes the plants and herbs of the earth as being potentially beneficial for the use of mankind, when used responsibly and appropriately.
· Certain people may have medical conditions that are treatable with cannabis or a derivative.
· Those who can use marijuana for relief (and where permitted by law) should always do so under the guidance of a medical professional.
· Care should be taken that medical drug use not turn to recreational drug use. Addiction is a devastating problem that does enormous harm both to the sufferer and the sufferer’s loved ones, and should not be risked.
· While some U.S. states have laws allowing cannabis sales and consumption, it remains illegal at the federal level, and its use may carry federal consequences. The members of the Church should seek to obey the laws of the land.

Or something like that. The brethren are both smarter and more articulate than I am, so I’m sure they’ll cover more ground more effectively in whatever statement they end up making. There’s nuance here that they’ll need to parse and consider, and I trust them to study it out and then pray about it, per the pattern already established as the path to divine guidance. I have no doubt they are already doing so. And this brings the warning: whatever statement is eventually made, some segment of the church membership is going to disagree.

The fault lines are obvious: to one side any acknowledgement of the possible benefits of cannabis will be received with stentorian disappointment as a pathetic cave to the forces of the world, while on the other anything less than a full-throated endorsement of weed will be sneered at as hopelessly behind the times. In the middle will be a huge swath of members, unsure of how to carry forward. Let us remind ourselves going forward of the importance of study and prayer. It will take study and prayer for guidance like this to come to us from the brethren, and it will take study and prayer for us to figure out how to digest it and move forward.

President Nelson has told us plainly that if we don’t know how to get personal revelation we’re not going to make it much longer. He’s right. More and more things like marijuana legalization are going to happen, and leaning on the understanding of others won’t be sufficient for long. It’s incumbent on us all to be both educated and prayerful in times like these, where it can seem like some new horror-storm is smashing into society every few weeks.

The Holy Ghost can be our compass to navigate these storms. Study and prayer combine to create the act of looking at the compass. I hope we can all figure out how to keep the compass in view.

21 thoughts on “How will the Church respond to increasingly legal marijuana?

  1. For informational purposes, I am posting the latest Church news release on the medical MJ initiative in Utah. I think it is fair to say the Church is opposed to MJ legalization and only support medical use of MJ in very specific, controlled circumstances.

    “The proposed Utah Medical Marijuana Initiative is a matter of great controversy in this state. The negative effects and consequences of marijuana use on individuals, families, and society at large are well-known. There are also those who claim that it has medicinal benefits for those in some circumstances.
    Accordingly, the Church asked a Salt Lake City law firm for a legal analysis of the proposed initiative to be submitted to the voters next fall. We wanted to know what the initiative would actually do, if adopted. The law firm’s memorandum with its analysis follows. That memorandum raises grave concerns about this initiative and the serious adverse consequences that could follow if it were adopted. We invite all to read the attached memorandum and to make their own judgment.
    KIRTON McCONKIE MEMORANDUM
    The following analysis addresses some of the legal issues raised by the proposed Utah Medical Marijuana Initiative, which may appear on the ballot in November 2018.
    The Marijuana Initiative Will Allow Some People to Grow Their Own Marijuana. Holders of medical cannabis cards who live more than 100 miles from a cannabis dispensary would be allowed to grow “up to six cannabis plants for personal medical use ….” (Section 26-60b-201(6)(d).) Nothing in the Initiative allows the State to license or monitor homegrown marijuana operations.
    The Marijuana Initiative Will Allow People Who Grow Their Own Marijuana to Evade Purchase and Use Limits. The Marijuana Initiative allows users to purchase up to 2 oz. of cannabis (or 10 grams of tetrahydrocannabinol or cannabidiol) from dispensaries every 14 days.[1] (Section 26-60b-502(3)-(4).) But nothing in the Initiative prevents a person who is authorized to grow his own marijuana from consuming more than that from his own home-grown plants (which can be very large) or from also buying the maximum amount from a dispensary.
    The Marijuana Initiative Will Create Significant Challenges for Law Enforcement. Law enforcement will have no way to distinguish between personally-grown legal marijuana and illegal marijuana. Additionally, law enforcement will have no way to distinguish illegally purchased marijuana from legally purchased marijuana. To be sure, a person who has a medical cannabis card who is in possession of cannabis must have “a label that identifies that the cannabis or cannabis product was originally sold from a licensed cannabis dispensary ….” (Section 26-60b-204.) But we see no reason why a cardholder could not keep a label from marijuana bought legally and show it to law enforcement to justify possession of illegally purchased marijuana. In any event, the fine for someone who does not have the card or label is only $100. (Section 26-60b-204(5).)
    The Marijuana Initiative Requires Medical Marijuana to Be Sold Through Marijuana Dispensaries, Not Licensed Pharmacies. As far as we can determine, marijuana would be the only serious controlled substance in Utah sold for alleged medicinal purposes without a prescription and outside of licensed pharmacies. (Section 26-60b-301, 26-60b-502.)
    The Marijuana Initiative Requires the State to Destroy Records of Cannabis Sales after 60 Days, which Will Hamper Law Enforcement. Because pharmacies distribute controlled substances, they are subject to strict record keeping requirements under both federal and state law, and all those records must be kept for at least five years. See Utah Admin. Code. § R156-37-602. The Marijuana Initiative does not impose these requirements on cannabis production establishments or dispensaries. And it requires the Department of Health to destroy the records it receives from cannabis production facilities and dispensaries within 60 days. (Section 26-60b-103.) This will severely hamper the ability of law enforcement to investigate and punish violations.
    The Marijuana Initiative Allows Dispensaries to Give Free Samples to Medical Cannabis Cardholders. (Section 26-60b-502(7).) This will encourage marijuana use.
    Under the Marijuana Initiative, Large Numbers of Utahans Will Likely Qualify for Medical Cannabis Cards. Under the proposed law, a person “is eligible” for a medical cannabis card if (1) the person is a Utah resident, (2) a physician diagnoses the person with a “qualifying illness,” and (3) the physician believes the person “may benefit from treatment with cannabis ….” (Section 26-60b-201.) The list of “qualifying illnesses” includes life-threatening and debilitating diseases, but also includes conditions that are difficult to diagnose and can afflict many people in varying degrees, such as “chronic pain,” which by some estimates includes over 15% of the population. Further, the physician must only believe that the patient “may benefit” from marijuana. Finally, the Department of Health does not have discretion to deny a medical cannabis card but “shall … within 15 days” issue a medical cannabis card to a patient with a referral from a physician. (Section 26-60b-201(1).)
    The Marijuana Initiative Allows a Person With a Criminal Background, Including Drug Convictions, to Get a Medical Cannabis Card. (Section 26-60b-201.) There is no restriction for prior convictions. Also, there is no provision in the Initiative for revoking a person’s medical cannabis card.
    The Marijuana Initiative Allows Marijuana Use for Conditions That Are Common but Difficult to Verify and Diagnose. Among the “qualifying illnesses,” for example, is “chronic or debilitating pain.” (Section 26-60b-105(1)(k).) In other jurisdictions that legalized medical marijuana, “[o]nly a small percentage of users identified specific serious illnesses and conditions” while “chronic or debilitating pain,” which is hard to diagnose and verify, “is far and away the most common condition identified by medical marijuana applicants.”[2] As one commentator notes: “[T]he statistical dominance of ‘chronic’ or ‘severe’ pain, as well as abundant anecdotal evidence, suggest that applicants offer, and physicians accept, chronic pain as a qualifying condition when in fact it is not….”[3]
    The Marijuana Initiative Allows Patients to Get a Recommendation from a Physician Based on a One-time Visit. Nothing in the Initiative requires the physician who refers a patient for a medical cannabis card to have a prior relationship with the patient, to review the patient’s medical records, or to schedule a follow-up visit to see how the treatment is working. The physician is required to do “a full assessment of the patient’s condition and medical history,” but this can presumably be done through patient reporting during a single visit. (Section 26-60b-107(4).) In states that have legalized medical marijuana, “prescribing physicians typically have no prior relationship with the applicant-patient” and often know nothing more about the patient than what the patient discloses during a single visit.[4] Also, nothing in the Marijuana Initiative prevents a patient from going to a different physician every six months to get a renewal recommendation.
    The Marijuana Initiative Will Allow a Small Number of Physicians to Give a Large Number of Recommendations. Physicians can recommend cannabis for up to 20% of their patients (and there is no mechanism for enforcing this limitation) and some specialized physicians can recommend cannabis to an unlimited number of patients. (Section 26-60b-107(2)-(3).) In states where medical marijuana has been legalized, relatively few physicians have prescribed marijuana for the large majority of users. At one point in Colorado, for example, 70% of the recommendations were written by fewer than 15 physicians, “and severe and chronic pain, a catchall category, accounted for ninety-four percent of all reported conditions.”[5]
    The Marijuana Initiative Does Not Require Physicians Providing a Recommendation to Have Any Training or Experience with the Effects of Marijuana or Even the Illness Being Treated. (Section 26-60b-105; 26-60b-201.) Any “physician” can refer a patient for cannabis treatment. A “physician” is defined as anyone who, under Utah law, can prescribe Schedule II controlled substances. (Section 26-60b-107(1).) This list includes, among others, optometrists, podiatrists, dentists, physician’s assistants, and certified nurse midwives. (Utah Admin. Code § R156-37-301.)
    The Marijuana Initiative Does Not Require a Prescription. Once a person has a medical cannabis card, which is good for six months unless the physician recommends a shorter time (section 26-60b-201(5)), the cardholder can buy the maximum amount allowed under the law every 14 days and use it as he or she chooses. (Section 26-60b-502(3)-(4).) The Initiative does not require that the physician prescribe a specific dosage, and continued use is not determined by the effectiveness of the treatment. The dosage is not determined by the severity of the person’s illness or current need; and the amount that can be purchased is the same for every medical cannabis cardholder regardless of the type or severity of the condition.
    The Marijuana Initiative Does Not Require Monitoring of the Medical Effects of Marijuana Usage on Particular Patients. Drugs interact with patients in different ways depending on age, illness, medical and family history, and use of other medications. Unlike other legal drugs, which are closely monitored for adverse effects and interactions prior to being made generally available to the public, the Initiative bypasses the normal scientific processes designed to ensure that patients are properly protected. The Initiative does not require physicians to monitor patients for adverse side effects arising from marijuana use.
    The Marijuana Initiative Prohibits Accountability for Physicians. The Initiative prohibits any kind of civil or criminal liability, or even licensure sanctions, against any physician who recommends treatment with cannabis “in accordance with this chapter.” (Section 26-60b-108.) A physician could routinely rubber stamp recommendations for a medical cannabis card after a brief visit, or mistakenly recommend marijuana use under conditions where it would do harm, and there is no mechanism in the Initiative for investigating, punishing, or imposing sanctions on the physician.
    The Marijuana Initiative Allows Minors to Use Medical Marijuana. A parent or guardian can get a medical cannabis card if his or her child has a “qualifying illness.” (Sections 26-60b-201(2)(b) and 26-60b-105(1).) There is no lower age limit.
    The Marijuana Initiative Will Make Marijuana More Accessible to Minors. A careful review of the 2015-2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, an agency within the U.S Department of Health and Human Services, reveals that marijuana usage among children ages 12-17 (and adults ages 18-25) is generally significantly higher in states that have legalized recreational and medicinal use. Utah had the lowest rates of usage in the nation among both age groups.[6] The marijuana initiative may change that.
    If the Marijuana Initiative Passes, Most Users of Medical Marijuana Will Likely Be Younger People. While advocates of medical marijuana often portray the typical user as older and incurably ill, that has not been the case in states that have already legalized medical marijuana. Documents seized by law enforcement officers during a raid in San Diego, California showed that 72% of medical marijuana patients were between the ages of 17 and 40. In Colorado, 61% of patients had an average age of 39. In Montana, 25% of patients were between 21 and 30. In Nevada, 53% of patients were 44 or younger. This trend is typical in states that have legalized medical marijuana. The primary reason for which people take medical marijuana is not a specific diagnosable disease, but “chronic pain.”[7]
    The Marijuana Initiative Immediately Legalizes Marijuana Possession Before Medical Cannabis Cards Are Distributed. If arrested, the person must merely show that they “would be eligible for a medical cannabis card” and that his or her conduct “would have been lawful after July 1, 2020” when cards are first issued. (Section 58-37-3.7(1).)
    The Marijuana Initiative Immediately Legalizes Possession By a Person With a Medical Marijuana Card from Another State. (Section 58-37-3.7(2).) In other words, Utah must honor medical marijuana cards issued by other states.
    The Marijuana Initiative Prohibits Landlords from Refusing to Rent to Medical Marijuana Users. (Section 26-60b-110.) The Initiative does not say whether landlords can prohibit the possession or use of marijuana on the premises. But they cannot refuse to rent to a person because they are a medical cannabis card holder unless doing so would cause the landlord to lose a federal benefit.
    The Marijuana Initiative Prohibits Local Zoning Ordinances Targeted at Marijuana Dispensaries. Municipalities and counties cannot “enact a zoning ordinance that prohibits a cannabis dispensary from operating” within their jurisdiction. (Section 26-60b-506(1)-(2).)
    The Marijuana Initiative Prohibits Local Law Enforcement from Cooperating With Federal Authorities Enforcing Federal Laws that Are Violated by Legal Use of Cannabis in Utah. (Section 58-37-3.8.) This could eventually affect distribution of federal law enforcement funds to Utah.
    The Marijuana Initiative Only Requires Cannabis Dispensaries to Be 300 feet (One Football Field) from Residential Neighborhoods and Only 600 Feet from Schools, Churches, Libraries, Parks, and Playgrounds. (Section 4-41b-201(2)(a).) This is true even though federal law substantially increases penalties for distributing marijuana within 1,000 feet of schools and playgrounds. See 21 U.S.C. § 860.
    The Marijuana Initiative Could Weaken Penalties for Causing Serious Bodily Injury while Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence of Marijuana. Current law states that a person who negligently operates a motor vehicle while “having in the person’s body … marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinols, or equivalents” and causes an accident resulting in serious bodily injury is guilty of a second degree felony. Utah Code § 58-37-8(2). The Marijuana Initiative appears to narrow this liability from anyone who has marijuana in their system to only those who ingest marijuana while operating a motor vehicle. Specifically, Section 58-37-3.6b(b) of the Initiative states: “An individual is not exempt from the penalties described in this title for ingesting cannabis or a cannabis product while operating a motor vehicle.” Whether intended or not, this poorly-worded provision appears to narrow liability for driving under the influence of marijuana.
    The Marijuana Initiative Requires Science to Be Ignored. The Initiative tasks the Cannabinoid Product Board (Utah Code § 26-61-201) with reviewing studies regarding the efficacy of cannabis treatment. This Board can “develop guidelines for treatment with cannabis” but those guidelines “may not limit the availability of cannabis” for any reason, even if further studies conclude marijuana use is more dangerous than currently known or is ineffective in treating any of the qualifying illnesses. (Section 26-61-202(6).)
    The Legislature May Choose Not to Remedy Unintended Consequences. Laws often have unknown or unintended consequences. That will almost certainly be the case here. State legislatures are often reluctant to amend or repeal ballot initiatives, choosing instead to respect the will of the people.
    Marijuana Cultivation, Distribution, and Possession are Federal Crimes with Stern Penalties. Congress criminalized the cultivation, distribution, and possession of marijuana. See 21 U.S.C. § 801 et seq. Marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug, listed alongside heroine, methamphetamine, LSD, and mescaline. See 21 U.S.C. § 812. Penalties range from up to one year imprisonment for a first conviction of possessing a small amount of marijuana (up to two years for a second conviction and three for a third conviction) to up to 5 years to life for selling or cultivating marijuana—depending on the amount—with fines ranging from $1,000 to $1,000,000. See 21 U.S.C. § 841 et seq.[8] Distribution to a minor and distribution within 1,000 feet of a school or other protected place substantially increases the penalties. See 21 U.S.C. §§ 859-860. A person convicted of possessing marijuana can also be denied certain federal benefits. See 21 U.S.C. §§ 862, 862a.
    The Marijuana Initiative Will Put Utahans at Serious Risk of Federal Prosecution. On January 4, 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Obama administration’s lenient approach to federal marijuana laws. He reminded Federal prosecutors of Congress’s determination “that marijuana is a dangerous drug and that marijuana activity is a serious crime.”[9] Federal prosecutors may now vigorously enforce federal marijuana laws. Passing the marijuana initiative will encourage Utahans to violate federal marijuana laws, which could result in prosecution and imprisonment.
    Gun Owners Who Rely on the Marijuana Initiative May Face Severe Federal Sentences. Federal law imposes a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years imprisonment on any person who “carries a firearm” or “in furtherance of such a crime, possesses a firearm” while selling or possessing marijuana. 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). This law is “often applied to nonviolent gun owners who do not actually harm or injure anyone. Additionally, the law applies even to legally purchased and registered guns and rifles found in the person’s home, even if the guns were not present or used during the actual offense.”[10] A person with a concealed-carry permit who lawfully carries a firearm while relying on the marijuana initiative to possess or distribute marijuana risks years of mandatory imprisonment.
    Immigrants Who Rely on the Marijuana Initiative Could Harm Their Immigration Status. According to the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, “Immigrants may reasonably think that using marijuana according to these state laws will not hurt their immigration status. Unfortunately, that’s wrong! It is still a federal offense to possess marijuana, and immigration is a part of federal law.”[11] Use or possession of marijuana can affect the immigrant if, for example, he or she applies for a green card, applies for citizenship, or travels outside the United States.[12]

    [1] Two ounces is a substantial amount of marijuana. Nick Lindsay, How Many Grams In An Ounce, Green Rush Daily at https://greenrushdaily.com/many-grams-ounce/ Niraj Chokshi, How Much Weed Is in a Joint? Pot Experts Have a New Estimate, NY Times, July 14, 2016 available at https://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/15/science/how-much-weed-is-in-a-joint-pot-experts-have-a-new-estimate.html?_r=0.
    [2] Gerald Caplan, Medical Marijuana: A Study of Unintended Consequences, 43 McGeorge L. Rev. 127, 136 available at http://www.mcgeorge.edu/Documents/Publications/06_Caplan_FINAL.pdf
    [3] Id.
    [4] Id. at 138.
    [5] Id. at 130.
    [6] See Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Reports and Detailed Tables from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health available at https://www.samhsa.gov/samhsa-data-outcomes-quality/major-data-collections/reports-detailed-tables-2016-NSDUH and https://www.samhsa.gov/data/population-data-nsduh/reports?tab=38.
    [7] Caplan, supra at 135-36.
    [8] See also United States Sentencing Guidelines Manual available at https://www.ussc.gov/guidelines.
    [9] See Memo from Attorney General Jeff Sessions to United States Attorneys dated Jan. 4, 2018 available at https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/4343764-Sessions-marijuana-memo.html. See also Charlie Savage and Jack Healy, Trump Administration Takes Steps That Could Threaten Marijuana Legalization Movement, NY Times, Jan. 4, 2018 available at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/04/us/politics/marijuana-legalization-justice-department-prosecutions.html (explaining that the new policy “freed prosecutors to more aggressively enforce federal laws against [marijuana] in states that have decriminalized its production and sale”).
    [10] See Families Against Mandatory Minimums, Gun Mandatory Minimum Sentences available at http://famm.org/projects/federal/us-congress/gun-mandatory-minimum-sentences/
    [11] See Immigration Legal Resource Center, Warning for Immigrants About Medical and Legalized Marijuana available at https://www.ilrc.org/sites/default/files/resources/marijuana_english.pdf
    [12] See id.”

  2. You’ve omitted the important facts of this story. How will the medical cannabis be taken by the patient? Will its oil be extracted by a pharmaceutical company , and placed in a pill that is then prescribed by a medical doctor after a thorough exam and tests? Will it be used as any other prescribed medication, or can it be grown in one’s back yard and smoked at will?
    If our nation’s people cared for themselves, with no government handouts, I would say let them do as each pleases. But the truth is the government is involved in just about every aspect of our lives. I pay taxes to this government so they’re able to employ too many drones, and support too many who are unable/unwilling to support themselves.
    I’ve seen the negative effects of marijuana on some people, just as I’ve seen the negative effects of some sugar addicted people. Marijuana is not ‘mellow yellow’ as it was decades ago, but is grown to be extremely potent and addictive. It reminds me that Cola was once served in eight ounce cups, and today can be purchased in 64 oz servings. Dialysis three times a week, with paid ambulance type vehicles to take the patient to and from their appointments is an enormous drain financially on the taxpayer.
    When people take care of themselves financially, I’ll be able to vote in a more Libertarian fashion. For now, I’ve a say so in their lives.
    When the populace cares for itself financially, I’ll vote a more libertarian way. For now, I’ll carefully consider

  3. Church policy on any drug use is pretty clear, use only under the supervision of *competent* medical authority. Whether it is legal or not any other use than as described is contrary to the Word of Wisdom as interpreted by the current Church authorities. Alcohol and tobacco have been legal for longer than the (current iteration of the) Church has been in existence, the Church figured out fairly quickly (although it took many decades to switch from a voluntary approach to the mandatory approach) how to deal with a dangerous legal substance in those cases, it appears marijuana is no different.

  4. Man, Geoff, you couldn’t link that? 🙂

    A big part of what bugs me as this process unfolds is stuff like this, from the KM memo:

    “Documents seized by law enforcement officers during a raid in San Diego, California showed that 72% of medical marijuana patients were between the ages of 17 and 40. In Colorado, 61% of patients had an average age of 39. In Montana, 25% of patients were between 21 and 30. In Nevada, 53% of patients were 44 or younger.”

    That’s an absurdly biased way to present a series of statistics. There are three different measures described there, all spun to indicate that all the data points one way. One could just as easily say:

    “Documents show that at least 25% of medical marijuana patients in California are over 40. In Colorado, that number is 20%. In Montana, however, almost 70% of medical marijuana patients are over 30, and In Nevada, 47% of patients are over 44.”

    And just like that medical marijuana is a boon to the elderly (especially in Montana, where many oldsters live in remote areas and may not have easy pharmacy access). Oklahoma just went through this, so I warn you Utah folks: this is going to get stupider and stupider as November nears, and you’re going to have to parse what people on both sides are telling you.

    I agree that the brethren are no big fans of marijuana. And that makes total sense. And they’re right to be “concerned”, as is anyone who is actually thinking about this in a non-partisan way. We should always be engaged in the processes and policies that affect our lives. But in that engagement, we also need to be honest and clear-eyed about the details. Part of that is going to be setting a well-thought course after this legal battle is lost.

  5. Re being “honest and clear-eyed.”

    In California after medical marijuana was legalized, ads soon made it clear how easy it would be for anyone to obtain marijuana with a wink and a nod, and a surprising (or maybe not so surprising) number of healthy-looking young people began showing up at “dispensaries.” Whatever the medical merits of marijuana, and I think there are some, it was clearly being sold to the voters as a medical item and to the cash customers as a recreational item, which it soon became.

    Prices did fall, so the furtive growers in the bush are said to have turned to growing more lucrative crops.

    The opioid epidemic makes it clear that even the licensed medical profession and the regulated pharmaceutical industry can become enablers of terrible things when money is to be made and there is too much trust as to what is safe and effective.

  6. Leo, I think it is undeniable that “medical marijuana” is primarily about the marijuana and secondarily about the “medical.” Of course CBD and THC have both been proven to have some medical benefits, and some of those benefits are unique, but medical marijuana is mostly about getting the camel’s nose under the tent so MJ will eventually be legalized. I think this is the primary fear of the Brethren.

    I live in Colorado. Legalized weed has had some positive and negative effects. It is simply not honest to say the effects are ALL negative or ALL positive. One of the worst effects is the general normalization of pot, which means that people use it very openly and aggressively. But there are positive effects as well, including the fact that Colorado law enforcement is spending a lot less time cracking down on MJ. I am very interested to see how the Brethren handle this issue over time. When MJ is legalized almost everywhere in the U.S., and we have two decades of tests proving that there are some medical benefits, will the Church’s message change? For example, we no longer hear Church leaders calling for alcohol criminalization, which was common in the first half of the 20th century.

  7. In Vermont, liberal voters are VERY anti-tobacco — parents won’t let their kids visit grandparents who smoke, for example. But these same liberal anti-tobacco voters are pro-marijuana and certainly do share marijuana with their teen children (Vermont has the highest rate of teen marijuana use (http://www.rutlandherald.com/articles/vt-teen-drug-use-tops-ranking/)). Makes no sense to me.

    Vermont allows any adult to grow their own weed, and has decriminalized small possession. Vermont is a recreational marijuana state.

    I have known some potheads in my life. Yes, marijuana is harmful. I remember walking the streets of Amsterdam many years ago.

    And yes, in real practice, medical marijuana is really recreational marijuana in disguise.

    Marijuana is not covered by the Word of Wisdom in D&C 88. The WoW does not cover illegal drugs, such as heroin or marijuana, although many of our LDS lessons say it does. Maybe a medical marijuana user can qualify for a temple recommend? Maybe even a recreational user? A heroin user?

  8. It’s section 89. And as an aside, I was very pleased that typing “DC89” into google brought it up as the first result. That’s kinda cool.

    But to the section itself, I think verses 10 and 11 are where the money’s at on something like heroin. One can hardly call heroin use “prudent” or something that contributes to the “constitution of man”.

  9. Yes, it is 89.

    Verses 10 and 11 allow for prudent use of herbs, but don’t forbid any.

    Pres. Hinckley once talked about illegal drugs, saying that while not covered by the Word of Wisdom, we should still take care of our bodies, avoid addictions, and not act illegally. That’s good reason to avoid marijuana, but it’s not a WoW matter — at least, I don’t see it as a WoW matter.

    I also wonder if Church leaders will speak on marijuana use. I agree that no matter what the statement says, some members will vocally disagree with it.

  10. I seem to remember then-Elder Nelson and Pres Hinckley both saying that avoiding illicit or mind-altering drugs is a WoW matter.

    It would have been GenConf, sometime from 2002 through about 2007.

  11. Bookslinger,

    No doubt — it is pervasive — but it is a man-made addition unsupported by the text.

  12. Ech.., I think I was conflating something about abortion, that Elder Nelson said, and then Pres Hinckley amen-ed.

    ji: granted, changes in policy in the implementation/parsing of WoW have been made. But prophets being prophets, I can’t say the changes are totally “man-made”. Knowuddimean?

  13. Maybe verse 4 of section 89 is worth reemphasizing. And Bookslinger is right, of course, about prophets and texts. See D&C 68:4. Having living prophets means we are not totally text-bound.

  14. I like this post. It is a fact that when a substance becomes legalized in almost any form, it will literally be abused to death (no pun intended). That’s the nature of the beast. Question: What substance is the U.S.’s number one killer, year in and year out? Answer: Nicotine (Over 400,000 per year, to say nothing of the number of deaths worldwide). And alcohol is a distant, but still too high second (Approx 100,000 per year). Opioids and prescription drugs dispensed “legally” have created a national epidemic.

    On the other hand, many point out that there are no recorded instances of anyone dying from a fatal dose (at least a gram) of marijuana alone as if that is reason enough to push for legalization. But it ignores the potential harmful consequences of weed abuse that is also attributed to illegal substances–deterioration of mental health and physical health, destruction of families, failure of individuals to thrive or reach one’s potential, etc. etc. Thus, greater research is needed to flesh out the deleterious effects before it becomes widespread, but we are plowing full steam ahead without fully understanding the consequences.

    I’ve seen medical pot, particularly in oil pill form, become life-altering for some with debilitating illnesses when previously they couldn’t function without pain. And I’ve seen others subjected to panic attacks and paranoia after smoking weed. Restating what others have already said here–recreational pot is really addiction masquerading as medicine or unmitigated substance abuse. It’s just a matter of time before medical pot becomes recreational in every state, and dispensaries crop up in nearly every U.S. city.

    Such legalization will engender abuses and social problems–“horror-storms”–we have yet to fully witness or experience. Though it would be nice for the Brethren to provide divine clarification, I don’t expect it anytime soon. Until then, I agree that it is incumbent on each of us to seek our own spiritual guidance.

  15. Tiger, on the list of legal substances that can be abused to the point of death: sucrose (table sugar), and it’s brother, high fructose corn syrup.

    I don’t think “over-consumption of sugar” is ever listed as a cause of death, but it sure leads to things that are, such as heart disease, metabolic disorder, diabetes, etc. I’ve noted that I rarely see morbidly obese (bmi>40) people over a certain age, say 70 or 72.

    I suspect over-consumption of alcohol could also similarly be under-represented in cause-of-death. It wears out organ systems, and deteriorates mentality and personality, such that people stop taking care of themselves.

    If an alcoholic homeless person dies of hypothermia (or from a diabetic-coma from alcohol-related diabetes), is the cause of death listed as alcohol abuse?

    So, while I can’t point to published stats, my gut feel is that alcohol as a root cause of death or lessened lifespan is not too far behind tobacco. Again, you don’t see many heavy-drinkers/alcoholics live past 75. But that may also be overlapped with tobacco use, since there is a high correlation.

  16. Book, You’re right, one must add sugar to the over-abused list of substances. Twelve step programs have been established to address nearly any destructive habit (except video gaming addiction). Prior to the industrial revolution, consumption of any substance–legal or otherwise–was much lower than today. The WoW came (1833) before it all started–mass-production, mass-marketing, mass-distribution–making substances (as well as the media) available everywhere and anywhere. Most of us are not daily exposed to pornography, but we know where to access it. Even without legal dispensaries, one can easily find pot (in various levels of purity) on any given day.

    I admit, even I am a sugar junkie, “trying” to be more moderate in my sugar consumption. Thankfully, I can still hold a temple recommend, and the WoW as presently constituted is adapted to the capacity of the weakest of all Saints, for our temporal salvation. Most of us can probably do a much better job of caring for our mortal tabernacles. Now, please excuse me while I grab a Red Bull. (Kidding!)

  17. Wow. What a thoughtful, nuanced viewpoint being shared here! I’m pleasantly surprised (if I can poke fun, a bit like when Fox News anchors actually disagree with the GOP or Trump). Good for you and free thought/openness to continuing revelation!

  18. People said the same thing about gay marriage. Alcohol is legal too.
    A fully practicing alcoholic may not have full Fellowship in the church.
    A fully practicing homosexual may not have full Fellowship in the church.
    Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean much.

  19. Mean Mama Jones: It’s a bit more complicated. The question is whether MMJ (heh-heh, I see what you did there) will be treated by church authorities like other legal-but-abusable medicine such as Oxycodone, where you’re still cool with the WoW/church as long as you have a legit prescription, or on the other hand, whether the church will formally consider legal-and-legitimately-prescribed medical weed still against the WoW.

    I think I am with Mormontarian on this; not only are the Q15 super intelligent, they are privy to the Lord’s will on the matter.

    Based on the track record, smoke-able MMJ always includes or leads to recreational MJ. If I were a state legislator, and had to vote on it, I would probably lean towards having MMJ only in oil or pill form, no edibles and no smoke-ables.

    It’s too easy (and too tempting) for legal MMJ growers to divert smokeable MMJ to illicit channels outside the legal medical channels.

    To me, the question is how to license and control the growing and processing of MJ so that none of it “leaks out” from the legitimate/legal path of grower to processor to distributor to retailer/pharmacist to end-user-with-a-prescription, so that all of it stays in oil or pill form, and only goes to legitimate prescription-holders.

    We have a system in place to get other Schedule II drugs (oxycodone, etc) from manufacturer to end user when a prescribing doctor deems it necessary/advisable for the patient. It’s not perfect, but it’s workable.

    Can we do the same with MMJ oils/pills? I dunno. I’m pretty sure we _can’t_ do it with smokeable MMJ.

  20. I agree with Bookslinger’s assessment of that key immediate question is whether MMJ will be “treated by church authorities like other legal-but-abusable medicine such as Oxycodone, where you’re still cool with the WoW/church as long as you have a legit prescription.” At least its funny legal situation in the US is remedied, which could easily change in the next few years.

    Does anyone know how MMJ is treated by the church in other countries? Surely this has come up elsewhere.

  21. Random thoughts:

    According to a literal interpretation of the DC, MJ could be considered a “wholesome herb.” Just sayin’, not partakin’.

    My grandparents who were born in the 1890’s in rural Utah told me that the cultivation of MJ was common when they were young. They called it “hemp” and claimed it was used for making ropes. But people smoked it and it made them feel good.

    Big tobacco made Duke University. Coca-Cola (cocaine and African hallucinogenic kola beans used in the Yoruba religion) made Emory University. Railroad money made Vanderbilt University. These are the best medical schools in the South. So the question: might we expect the emergence of a great medical center based on the “wealth” created by MJ in one of these bastions? Probably not Vermont.

    The most common cause of death in the US for ages 1 to about 60 is automobile collisions. Risk factors include speeding, alcohol, texting, and of course MJ along with using any other powerful sedative or stimulant. These are deaths before or during the reproductive years so natural selection will eventually work against people who use and permit/encourage their children to do these activities.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *