LDS Church stepping away from medical marijuana fights

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said it would step away from legislative spats over medical cannabis in the future.

In an interview with FOX 13 on Thursday, Marty Stephens, the Church's government and community relations director, indicated they would not be weighing in on every cannabis bill that came through the legislative session.

"We think the state is in a pretty good position right now for medical cannabis. It’s our intent now to let the legislature manage this issue. We’re not going to get involved in which doctor should be prescribing, which conditions should be covered. We believe there’s a good compromise in place now and it’s not an issue the Church intends to engage on further going forward," Stephens said.

"Unless something wildly different comes up, certainly if recreational marijuana comes in, we may engage. But as far as tweaking the compromise that’s there, this is not an issue the Church will engage in going forward."

The LDS Church was a major figure in the fight over Proposition 2, the medical marijuana ballot initiative that voters approved in November. At first, the faith was strongly opposed to Prop. 2, but then entered into negotiations with legislative leaders, sponsors of the initiative and other opponents.

That led to a "compromise" bill that replaced Prop. 2. It eliminated more objectionable parts of the ballot initiative, while still creating a medical cannabis program in Utah.

The bill -- and the Church's involvement in the talks -- has sparked some public pushback. The replacement bill is the subject of a lawsuit filed by Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education (TRUCE). Part of their litigation accuses the LDS Church of exercising an inappropriate level of influence over the legislature in getting the bill through, usurping the will of the voters.

Reacting to Stephens' comments, the Utah Patients Coalition (which sponsored Prop. 2) said it was hopeful the law could still be modified.

"Our goal has always been to provide patients a medical cannabis plan where medical decisions are made between patients and their doctors," said Desiree Hennessy, the group's executive director. "We look forward to working directly with legislators to expand the Utah Medical Cannabis Act, allowing patients and their medical providers access to the best treatment options."

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