Pubdate: Tue, 09 Feb 2016
Source: Salt Lake Tribune (UT)
Copyright: 2016 The Salt Lake Tribune


Of course not everything that would follow action by the Utah 
Legislature to allow the medicinal use of marijuana would be 
positive. There are few chemicals, natural or artificial, in the 
human environment that do not, when badly or excessively used, have 
serious, even fatal, downsides.

But there has been more than enough evidence presented to convince 
any compassionate person - or institution - that medical cannabis 
offers some of us real relief from unimaginable levels of human 
suffering. Relief that is more effective, with fewer side-effects, 
than can be had from legal medications.

The likely, even inevitable, misuses or abuses should not be enough 
to stop the trend - already legal in 23 states and tacitly accepted 
by the federal government - of allowing the use of the naturally 
occurring substance for specified maladies under the supervision of a 

That is why members of the Utah Legislature should follow both the 
head and the heart and pass the Medical Cannabis Act, submitted by 
Sen. Mark Madsen and approved Friday by a Senate committee, that 
would allow the practice in Utah.

Which happens to mean that the Legislature should also respectfully 
decline to take the advice of The Church of Jesus Christ of 
Latter-day Saints - of which the vast majority of lawmakers happen to 
be members - to kill the bill.

The church - or, more accurately, the collection of human beings who 
run the church - has just as much right as anyone else to weigh in on 
this and other controversial matters. But, when it does, it bears the 
same burden as any other interest group. Its arguments have to stand 
up to scrutiny, to meet standards of both logic and humanity, in 
order to carry the day.

In this matter, the church's case is not convincing.

The number of good and decent people - not habitual drug abusers or 
casual scofflaws - who have demonstrated the often startling benefits 
of medical marijuana for people suffering from chronic pain, 
debilitating diseases and crippling seizures is now impossible to deny.

The side-effects, meanwhile, are all too often exaggerated. No less 
an authority than the National Institute on Drug Abuse declines to 
label marijuana a "gateway drug," noting that few users go on to get 
hooked on harder drugs. And the number of fatal overdoses is so small 
as to amount to zero.

Meanwhile, the socially accepted alternative to medical marijuana - 
opioids - is highly addictive, often fatal and has been shown to 
encourage abusers to jump to heroin when their prescription 
medications are unavailable or insufficient.

The Legislature would also be doing the LDS Church a favor if it 
politely ignored its counsel on this subject. If the church gets the 
blame for stopping Madsen's bill, a great many Utahns, LDS and 
otherwise, will resent its outsized influence and its ability to, in 
effect, force the whole of the state's population to live as the 
church would have them live.

The fact that LDS officials do not penalize their members for using 
medical marijuana in states where it is legal smacks of rank 
hypocrisy. So does the fact that the church's welcoming view on 
immigration, based on its humane concern for keeping families 
together, stands against a position that will force families to 
atomize so some of their members can become medical refugees in more 
enlightened states. Both positions undermine the church's social and 
moral authority in the wider world.

Madsen, an LDS Church member and grandson of late LDS Church 
President Ezra Taft Benson, was openly frustrated last week by the 
church's decision to interfere in the legislative process, especially 
its unwillingness to so much as discuss the matter with him. That's 

But the problem is not that the LDS Church is wrongly active, in this 
or any other matter. The problem is that, in the case of medical 
marijuana, it is actively wrong.

Madsen's bill should be approved.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom