Utah Mormons File Lawsuit to Remove Medical Marijuana from Ballot

Book of Mormon on a woman's lap

SALT LAKE CITY — A group of Mormons has filed a lawsuit to have a medical marijuana measure removed from the election ballot. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints member Walter. J. Plumb financed the campaign against the measure, claiming that the measure violates his religious beliefs.

Plumb specifically has a problem with a provision in the measure preventing landlords from renting property to medical marijuana patients. The lawsuit contends that Mormon property owners would be forced to rent to medical marijuana patients under the measure which would conflict with the landlord's religious beliefs.

The lawsuit states, "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints have a constitutional right to exercise their religious beliefs. This includes the right not to consort with, be around, or do business with people engaging in activities which their religion finds repugnant."

The medical marijuana measure aims to legalize marijuana as a treatment for patients suffering from AIDS/HIV, cancer, epilepsy, intractable chronic pain, and several other illnesses. Opponents of the measure claim that it is too similar to recreational marijuana laws in legal marijuana states.

Religion vs. Marijuana

DJ Schanz is the director of the medical marijuana initiative campaign and says that the group bringing the lawsuit is not behaving like members of a church by using the language they did within the lawsuit. Schanz said the group "should be ashamed of themselves for calling sick and afflicted patients morally repugnant in their latest lawsuit."

The group began a lawsuit previously against the measure but withdrew it before the filing. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also published a memo in May that opposed the medical marijuana measure.

The seven-page memo cited their issues with the initiative which included 31 concerns. Some of the concerns included a provision allowing patients to grow six plants for medicine, complimentary samples that are given at dispensaries, convicts being allowed to obtain a medical marijuana license, minors consuming the drug, and the rental property issue.

The Utah Medical Association is also against the measure, however, it would seem that residents of the state and many Mormons disagree. At least 76 percent of voters in Utah support legalizing medical marijuana and roughly 67 percent of the population in the state are Mormons.

The medical marijuana measure, which is named Proposition 2, would require medical marijuana patients to obtain an ID card from the Utah Department of Health. The ID cards would only be issued if the patient has a doctor's recommendation. If the measure were to pass, the Utah Department of Health will begin issuing medical marijuana ID cards by 2020.

The measure also has a provision to allow medical marijuana cultivation, processing, and testing facilities as well as licenses for marijuana dispensaries. Other states have legalized the drug without a plan to provide patients access to the medicine. Proposition 2 seeks to avoid that issue by including guidelines within the initiative.

The measure restricts the number of dispensaries in relation to the number of residents within each county, which would allow approximately eight dispensaries in Salt Lake County using 2016 data. Patients would be allowed to buy two ounces of medical marijuana or 10 grams of cannabidiol or THC oil.

The LDS Church does not tell church members specifically that they cannot consume medical marijuana, but their Word of Wisdom health code prohibits alcohol, smoking, and illegal drug use.

The lawsuit headed by Plumb is requesting a court injunction to keep the medical marijuana measure off the ballot, but Schanz said that he plans to fight the lawsuit. The LDS Church had no comment.