LDS Church publishes new memo pushing back on medical marijuana ballot initiative

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has published a new memo pushing back on Proposition 2.

The memo, prepared by the LDS Church's law firm of Kirton McConkie, is a rebuttal to a rebuttal by the Libertas Institute. The libertarian-leaning think tank has pushed medical marijuana legislation on Utah's Capitol Hill and has been a backer of the Utah Patients Coalition, which is sponsoring Prop. 2.

"Libertas’s response is not really a legal rebuttal but rather an assertion of its own libertarian policy preferences. Libertas appears to favor full legalization of marijuana, and the Marijuana Initiative is a big step in that direction. The primary purpose of our analysis, by contrast, was to identify some of the legal problems and risks the Marijuana Initiative would create. Whether those problems and risks are worth it—or whether the Marijuana Initiative is a slippery slope to full legalization—is a policy question for voters to decide," the Kirton McConkie memo states.

The memo takes most issue with the "grow your own" provision of the ballot initiative. The proposition states that if someone lives more than 100 miles from a dispensary, they are allowed to grow their own cannabis plants. Libertas has insisted the provision was to ensure communities did not zone medical marijuana dispensaries out of reach for patients who would be able to use it, should Prop. 2 pass.

The memo also raises concerns about a wide variety of people that might be able to obtain medical cannabis and whether they really qualify.

"The legal community widely mocked the original 'legal analysis' offered by Kirton McConkie, and saw it for what it was: a hit piece designed to undermine public support of Prop 2," Libertas Institute President Connor Boyack told FOX 13 in response to the memo. "This new response to Libertas Institute’s rebuttal shows the eagerness to nitpick in the 11th hour at a substantive proposal that’s been public for well over a year. We’d love to see realistic solutions offered, rather than continued opposition to what patients and advocates have been working together toward for years."

The LDS Church has joined a coalition of groups opposed to Prop. 2 called "Drug Safe Utah," that also includes the Utah Medical Association, the Episcopal Diocese of Utah, the Islamic Society of Greater Salt Lake, the Utah Sheriff's Association and a number of state lawmakers. However, the LDS Church exercises dominant influence in Utah culture and politics.

The Church has said it does not oppose medical marijuana itself if prescribed by a doctor and dispensed through a pharmacy, but opposes Prop. 2. Supporters of the medical cannabis initiative are quick to point out doctors cannot prescribe marijuana and pharmacies cannot distribute it.

Prop. 2 so far has been polling to pass, but the LDS Church's vocal opposition has been chipping away at those numbers.

Read the LDS Church law firm's memo here (refresh the page if it doesn't immediately load):