Personal Freedom

A Rebuttal of Kirton McConkie’s Analysis of the Utah Medical Cannabis Act

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently commissioned its retained law firm, Kirton McConkie, to provide what they call a “legal analysis” of the proposed initiative, that they wrongly title the “Utah Medical Marijuana Initiative.”

The LDS Church’s statement that accompanies the analysis argues that it reveals “grave concerns” and illustrates “serious adverse consequences that could follow” if the initiative became law.

The analysis does neither of these things.

The document offered by Kirton McConkie is, rather, a poor attempt to provide biased assertions and misleading talking points to what Americans for Safe Access has called “among the nation’s most conservative” medical cannabis laws, further saturating the debate with fear-based claims about this important issue.

Libertas Institute has been involved in the drafting of this proposal for several years, first with Senator Madsen and later with the Utah Patients Coalition. Roughly 95% of the language in the initiative comes from the bill considered by the Legislature. We have a deep understanding of the proposals — and their purpose and motive — so we are well situated to respond to the claims made against them.

Let’s begin, addressing each of Kirton McConkie’s claims one at a time. Each of their claims appear in quotes and bold text.

“The Marijuana Initiative Will Allow Some People to Grow Their Own Marijuana”

The LDS Church and Kirton McConkie (hereafter jointly referred to as “LDS/KM”) state that people with 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'” and that the proposed law does not allow the state to license or monitor “homegrown marijuana operations.”

The ballot initiative proposal (hereafter referred to as the “initiative”) does not allow homegrown operations. Even under the scenario described — if the state refuses to license dispensaries, and thus Utahns have no dispensary within 100 miles from which to obtain their medicine — it specifically states that cannabis plants may not be grown in residential areas. So it is quite misleading to state that these plants would be homegrown.

And this provision was only included as an “insurance policy” of sorts, to encourage the government to comply with the will of the voters and allow dispensaries to obtain licenses to operate. Why? Because in some states after the voters passed a new law, the bureaucrats dragged their feet and refused to comply, stalling the regulatory program for years — to the detriment of patients.

Advocates didn’t want that happening in Utah, so this provision was included to ensure that if it did happen, patients could get access to their medicine legally. And if the government didn’t want it to happen, all they have to do is comply with the law. Then, there will be dispensaries scattered throughout the state, and nobody will live in any area in which there is not a dispensary within 100 miles.

“The Marijuana Initiative Will Allow People Who Grow Their Own Marijuana to Evade Purchase and Use Limits”

LDS/KM claims that the initiative says patients would be able to purchase up to two ounces of cannabis every 14 days, but that it does not prevent 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)…”

Again, it’s not “home-grown.” And this provision is unlikely to ever be triggered — that is, unless the government violates the law and does not allow dispensaries to be set up. This concern evaporates so long as the law is followed, leading to licensed dispensaries within 100 miles of nearly every medical cannabis cardholder in the state.

“The Marijuana Initiative Will Create Significant Challenges for Law Enforcement”

Law enforcement executives have consistently opposed our efforts to legalize medical cannabis, whether legislatively or now through the initiative. LDS/KM claims that officers “will have no way to distinguish between personally-grown legal marijuana and illegal marijuana” or distinguish “illegally purchased marijuana from legally purchased marijuana.”

The first concern, again, goes away as long as dispensaries are allowed to set up shop.

The second concern is rather silly; the initiative includes a database to track all cannabis plants and purchases, and any officer suspicious of one’s cannabis possession can verify that 1) the person has a legal medical card authorized by a physician; and 2) the patient actually purchased the cannabis from a dispensary as allowed under the law.

LDS/KM also claims that “in any event, the fine for someone who does not have the card or label is only $100.” Yes, precisely. Patients should not be subjected to heavy criminal punishment merely because they forgot to carry their card or transferred their medicine to another container and no longer have the original label. And cannabis obtained illegally is still subject to a class B misdemeanor, which carries a penalty of a fine up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail.

“The Marijuana Initiative Requires Medical Marijuana to Be Sold Through Marijuana Dispensaries, Not Licensed Pharmacies”

LDS/KM claims, “marijuana would be the only serious controlled substance in Utah sold for alleged medicinal purposes without a prescription and outside of licensed pharmacies.”

This is only because of the federal government’s classification of cannabis as a Schedule I substance. It’s effectively illegal under federal law, therefore pharmacies — because of federal law — cannot provide it to the public for purchase. A Schedule I designation means that it “has no currently accepted medical use” and a “high potential for abuse.”

This is why states legalizing the medical use of cannabis have to establish institutions outside of the pharmacy system through which the substance can be bought and sold. The same applies here in Utah with the initiative.

Of course, we would welcome a rescheduling of cannabis (since this classification is outright stupid) and the option to dispense cannabis and its derivatives through the pharmacy system. Because that is not currently an option, and because it appears to not be changing anytime soon, patients with urgent needs must be afforded another option. Thus, dispensaries.

“The Marijuana Initiative Requires the State to Destroy Records of Cannabis Sales after 60 Days, which Will Hamper Law Enforcement”

LDS/KM claims that pharmacies are “subject to strict record keeping” and must keep said records “for at least five years.” The “Marijuana Initiative,” as LDS/KM pejoratively calls it, “does not impose these requirements on cannabis production establishments or dispensaries.” In these cases, the Department of Health is ordered to destroy records within 60 days.

This is intentional. Why? Again, because cannabis is a Schedule I substance and thus illegal for this type of use under federal law. Initiative proponents do not want the federal government to have a lengthy list of people violating federal law, and therefore those records should be destroyed after two months.

In that 60-day window, law enforcement can investigate and preserve evidence that is discovered for use in subsequent prosecution. But the government should not be given a treasure trove of patient documentation of violations of federal law, thus for law-abiding people not guilty of any crime, the records should be removed on a rolling basis to protect them from the very law enforcement that LDS/KM seems intent on supporting so strongly.

As LDS/KM’s headline concedes, the records to be purged deal only with cannabis sales for medical patients—not other records kept by growers, inspectors, cultivators, and dispensaries. It’s a narrow provision designed to protect the privacy of patients whose personal data law enforcement does not forever need.

“The Marijuana Initiative Allows Dispensaries to Give Free Samples to Medical Cannabis Cardholders”

LDS/KM claims that “This will encourage marijuana use.”

What does the initiative actually say?

“A cannabis dispensary may give to an individual with a medical cannabis card, at no cost, a product that the cannabis dispensary is allowed to sell…”

This provision was designed to allow low/no-income patients to access medicine from dispensaries who wish to offer it to them on a charitable basis. Of course, nobody may get cannabis this way without a medical card. So once the person’s medical need is established, why does LDS/KM care whether the person obtains their medicine by paying money or not?

If they’re a verified patient, leave them alone — don’t criminalize the use of cannabis merely because it was provided to the sick person for free.

“Under the Marijuana Initiative, Large Numbers of Utahans Will Likely Qualify for Medical Cannabis Cards”

LDS/KM concedes that the initiative only allows medical cannabis for Utah residents whose physicians diagnose them with a qualifying illness. Yet they then say that the list of qualifying illness “includes conditions that are difficult to diagnose and can afflict many people in varying degrees.” Their analysis also states that the physician “must only believe that the patient ‘may benefit’ from marijuana” and that the “Department of Health does not have discretion to deny a medical cannabis card.”

Let’s start with the last item first. If a physician believes that cannabis will help their patient, of course, we don’t want a bureaucrat without any medical training to be able to arbitrarily deny that patient their medicine. This point is so simple and straightforward that we wonder why it’s included in a list of “grave concerns” LDS/KM has with the initiative.

And physicians aren’t fortune tellers; they can’t conclude with certainty that cannabis will benefit their patient. Each person’s situation is different, and cannabis can help some people with a certain condition while others with that condition don’t find that same relief. (And at least if they try the medication they won’t get addicted or die — unlike the numerous pharmaceutical drugs LDS/KM evidently has no objection to doctors offering their patients.)

As for the qualifying list, there is ample evidence that the list of conditions included in the initiative can be alleviated or helped when using cannabis. Sure, such conditions may “afflict many people in varying degrees,” but what’s important is letting a patient and physician together ascertain what might help, rather than denying them the opportunity by criminalizing cannabis completely. Patients and physicians should have the freedom to pursue medical opportunities together — and that’s the goal of the initiative.

“The Marijuana Initiative Allows a Person With a Criminal Background, Including Drug Convictions, to Get a Medical Cannabis Card”

“There is no restriction for prior convictions,” LDS/KM argues.

Absolutely. Why should sick people be criminally deprived of medicine that can help them merely because they shoplifted or got into a fistfight years ago, for example? Convicts can have opiates, so why not (safer) cannabis? Cancer, epilepsy, and other conditions afflict sinners and saints alike.

“The Marijuana Initiative Allows Marijuana Use for Conditions That Are Common but Difficult to Verify and Diagnose”

LDS/KM claims that “chronic or debilitating pain” is “hard to diagnose and verify,” presumably in an effort to suggest it should not be included at all in the list of qualifying conditions. While it is no doubt difficult to diagnose, to suggest that chronic pain patients should be deprived of a medical regimen that can help them is rather odd.

The insinuation, however, is that people will deceptively argue to their doctor that they are experiencing chronic pain in an effort to obtain a medical cannabis card, when in fact they do not suffer from chronic pain — at least, to a degree that merits using cannabis.

This will of course happen. It does currently, with opiates. Does LDS/KM believe that opiates should be banned for use from all legitimate patients because some people claim their back hurts when it in fact does not? Does abuse by some give cause to deprive others of a medicine they need? We argue it does not; any system can and will be abused. Patients who legitimately need cannabis to alleviate their pain should not be denied because some may abuse the system.

“The Marijuana Initiative Allows Patients to Get a Recommendation from a Physician Based on a One-time Visit”

LDS/KM claims, “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.”

And yet, the initiative clearly states: “A physician may recommend cannabis to an individual under this chapter only in the course of a physician-patient relationship after the physician has completed a full assessment of the patient’s condition and medical history.” The intent of this language is to ensure a pre-existing relationship, not a spontaneous one at the time of the visit in which a medical cannabis card is sought. Should the language not suffice, agency regulations created after the initiative’s passage (or an amendment to the statute itself) can clarify this point further.

LDS/KM further states that “nothing in the Marijuana Initiative prevents a patient from going to a different physician every six months to get a renewal recommendation.” However, physicians have access to a database that shows the “purchase history of cannabis or a cannabis product by a medical cannabis card holder, including the time and date of the purchase, the quantity and type of cannabis or cannabis product purchased” to see past use and recommendations from other physicians.

The initiative also states that “a physician who recommends treatment with medical cannabis to an individual or minor shall… before recommending cannabis or a cannabis product, look up the individual in the controlled substance database” in order to review past drug use.

It’s odd that LDS/KM wants a prior relationship, a record review, and follow-up visits for recommending cannabis, but no concern is shared for opiates being able to be prescribed without any of these things. Two dozen Utahns are dying a month from these FDA-approved drugs, which can be prescribed to patients by a physician seeing the patient for the first time. The inconsistency in demanding a different process for far-safer cannabis is striking.

“The Marijuana Initiative Will Allow a Small Number of Physicians to Give a Large Number of Recommendations”

LDS/KM notes that physicians can recommend cannabis for up to 20% of their patients, and specialized physicians (for certain of the qualifying conditions) can recommend cannabis to an unlimited number.

No physician is compelled to recommend cannabis, and many will not. And like other alternative options, there will likely be a smaller percentage of physicians who actively recommend this option for their patients. It may very well be that the largest employer of physicians in Utah, Intermountain Healthcare, decides to prohibit their employees from recommending cannabis. Because of these concerns, other licensed physicians must retain the ability to satisfy the legitimate demand of sick patients who believe that cannabis can help them.

Law enforcement retains the ability to identify, in the database, which physicians recommend cannabis for which patient. Any concerns about abuse or malpractice can be resolved through existing investigatory procedures.

“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”

As LDS/KM notes, those who can prescribe Schedule II controlled substances — including deadly opioids — are allowed under the initiative to recommend far-safer cannabis. Physicians who choose to recommend cannabis can seek continuing education on the issue from a number of organizations or review ample medical literature that speaks to the benefits and risks of cannabis.

The information is abundantly available for those who seek it; the initiative does not compel arbitrary “training or experience” prior to allowing physicians to offer their professional view that their patient can benefit from this option that is less addictive, less deadly, and potentially more effective than existing pharmaceutical options.

Doctors aren’t required to “have any training or experience” before prescribing deadly prescription drugs. So why the double standard? If LDS/KM desires training or experience before giving a patient a drug, then let’s at least be consistent — or begin with the deadly options before targeting far-safer cannabis.

Also of note: the American Medical Association (who, alongside their state affiliate, has fought the initiative with their substantial financial resources) has opposed efforts to require physicians to be trained before prescribing opioids.

“The Marijuana Initiative Does Not Require a Prescription”

“The Initiative does not require that the physician prescribe a specific dosage, and continued use is not determined by the effectiveness of the treatment,” LDS/KM writes.

Because of federal law, physicians are not legally allowed to write a prescription for cannabis. However, physicians are protected by the First Amendment to discuss the risks and benefits of cannabis and recommend its use to patients.

The initiative does not require specific dosages, because the First Amendment does not protect speech that goes so far as to aid or abet commission of a federal crime. But there are best practices developed that physicians can encourage their patients to follow in order to determine the right cannabinoid composition and amount that will alleviate their symptoms or treat their condition.

Unlike many pharmaceutical drugs, cannabis has a very wide margin between the effective dose and overdose amounts. With opiates, for example, very specific dosing is needed to ensure a patient can get relief while minimizing the chance they become addicted and/or overdose on the drug. The risk of addiction and overdose on cannabis is so minimal that the dosage process is less stringent and therefore not strictly mandated under threat of criminal punishment in the initiative.

“The Marijuana Initiative Does Not Require Monitoring of the Medical Effects of Marijuana Usage on Particular Patients”

LDS/KM writes, “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 LDS Church’s stated position is that “The public interest is best served when all new drugs designed to relieve suffering and illness and the procedures by which they are made available to the public undergo the scrutiny of medical scientists and official approval bodies.”

First off, cannabis is not a “new drug.” It has been used for thousands of years. It was previously used in numerous medications. In fact, medical cannabis has previously been an option in Utah; a century ago, the legislature enacted a law that allowed for its medical use if a physician signed off on it.

But to suggest that a medical treatment option should be criminally prohibited merely because it does not follow the same “scrutiny of medical scientists and official approval bodies” as newly invented molecules and chemical derivatives is wrong — especially since this previously studied and supported medical option was not criminalized due to any scientific finding of any sort.

The placement of cannabis onto the Schedule I list was an action based on fear, racism, and protectionism — not science. In fact, it was the American Medical Association that fought Congress’ efforts to begin punishing the use of cannabis decades ago.

While we do not oppose FDA review of cannabis products and additional scientific research by any means, we have repeatedly maintained that these efforts can be pursued concurrently with patient access. Sick Utahns should not be criminalized as they wait for researchers and bureaucrats to satisfy themselves about a plant-based medicine that does not kill those who use it.

“The Marijuana Initiative Prohibits Accountability for Physicians”

LDS/KM argues that the initiative “prohibits any kind of civil or criminal liability, or even licensure sanctions, against any physician who recommends treatment with cannabis.”

What the initiative actually states is that “a physician who recommends treatment with cannabis or a cannabis product to an individual in accordance with this chapter may not, based on the recommendation, be subject to civil liability, criminal liability, or licensure sanctions…”

The intent here is to shield physicians from legal consequence for merely recommending cannabis, since physicians are subject to federal law and are not allowed to prescribe a Schedule I substance to their patients. A “recommendation” is instead used as the method of authorization, as this is tied to the doctor’s right to free speech. Exercising that speech should not be the basis of civil or criminal liability, or licensure sanctions.

Medical boards can still enforce other things not dealing with the recommendation—for example, not following the proper standard of care or for recommending cannabis without proper evaluation.

“The Marijuana Initiative Allows Minors to Use Medical Marijuana”

LDS/KM simply states their concern that “a parent or guardian can get a medical cannabis card if his or her child has a ‘qualifying illness.'”

Indeed. This is one of the main goals of the initiative—we want both children and adults to have safer, alternative treatment options to manage their debilitating illnesses. Epilepsy and other conditions can begin at any age, and FDA-approved drugs do not always control the symptoms children experience. Many physicians want their young patients to access this treatment but the law does not currently allow it.

Children are routinely prescribed opioids, benzodiazepines, antidepressants, and other drugs.The FDA approved OxyContin for kids as young as 11.  Many children are heavily medicated with Ritalin and Adderall — a drug that is basically legal meth. If these options are routinely offered to children, complete with their dependency and substantial side effects, why not cannabis—a safer option?

“The Marijuana Initiative Will Make Marijuana More Accessible to Minors”

LDS/KM cites a federal government report claiming 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.”

And yet that’s not entirely accurate. Indeed, Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment reported (in a state with recreational use, not merely medical) that the rate of cannabis consumption among adolescents “has not changed since legalization either in terms of the number of people using or the frequency of use among users.” And a study in Washington state notes that teen cannabis consumption decreased or remained steady since legalization — again, in a state allowing broader recreational use.

But let’s assume for a moment that LDS/KM’s contention is accurate — namely, that legalizing medical cannabis will lead to an uptick in teen use. Is this still a reason to criminalize patients? Should cannabis be entirely prohibited merely because some teens will improperly use it? We think there is only one reasonable answer to these questions.

“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,” writes LDS/KM.

Actually, advocates in Utah have portrayed the “typical user” as children with seizures, if anything. And while there are many older Utahns who currently illegally use cannabis for medical purposes, or who wish to use it legally but currently abstain — see one of them in our video — it really doesn’t matter who is “portrayed” as a “typical user.”

What matters is that those who actually need this option, no matter their age, have the legal ability to do so without fear of criminal punishment.

“The Marijuana Initiative Immediately Legalizes Marijuana Possession Before Medical Cannabis Cards Are Distributed”

Opponents have been wrongly claiming that this provision — called an “affirmative defense” — would effectively legalize recreational use when passed into law. This is incorrect, as stated most recently by Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill.

Here is what the initiative actually states: “Before July 1, 2020, it is an affirmative defense to criminal charges against an individual for the use, possession, or manufacture of marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol, or marijuana drug paraphernalia under this chapter that the individual would be eligible for a medical cannabis card, and that the individuals conduct would have been lawful, after July 1, 2020.”

When voters cast their ballots in November, a majority will likely support this initiative. In so doing, they are sending a clear message to their government: stop criminalizing patients who use cannabis.

As such, it would be ridiculous to allow the government to continue criminalizing patients for a year or two while the bureaucracy takes its time setting up the regulations, the licensure process, the permit process, the database, etc. This “affirmative defense” (basically an option to defend against the government’s prosecution of a patient for cannabis use in court after the patient is arrested) was therefore created in order to legally protect patients who would qualify for a card but who simply cannot yet obtain one because the bureaucracy isn’t ready.

“The Marijuana Initiative Immediately Legalizes Possession By a Person With a Medical Marijuana Card from Another State”

“In other words,” writes LDS/KM, “Utah must honor medical marijuana cards issued by other states.” Why should Utah taxpayers be forced to pay for the investigation and prosecution of out of state visitors who are sick and use this same medicine?

Note that non-residents with a card from another state are not allowed to purchase items in Utah’s dispensaries. They are simply given protection if they are found with their medicine and the government attempts to prosecute them for possessing cannabis in Utah. If they are a legitimate medical patient, law enforcement should not waste their time — whether the person is a Utah resident or not.

“The Marijuana Initiative Prohibits Landlords from Refusing to Rent to Medical Marijuana Users”

LDS/KM claims, “The Initiative does not say whether landlords can prohibit the possession or use of marijuana on the premises.” And because the initiative is silent on the matter, this action is not prohibited and therefore allowed. The initiative does state:

“No landlord may refuse to lease to and may not otherwise penalize a person solely for the person’s status as a medical cannabis card holder, unless failing to do so would cause the landlord to lose a monetary or licensing-related benefit under federal law.”

This provision is intended to be consistent with other anti-discrimination activities imposed upon landlords. Under a similar argument, a person shouldn’t be ejected from their home merely because of the type of medicine they use.

It is odd that the LDS Church which supported anti-discrimination laws that prohibit landlords from evicting people because of their sexuality evidently wishes to allow landlords to evict people because they use a cannabis-based medication.

“The Marijuana Initiative Prohibits Local Zoning Ordinances Targeted at Marijuana Dispensaries”

LDS/KM observes that “Municipalities and counties cannot ‘enact a zoning ordinance that prohibits a cannabis dispensary from operating’ within their jurisdiction.”

And that’s all they say. (Many of the “concerns” raised in the analysis are merely simple statements about something in the initiative without any argument as to why it is a concern.)

Again, as with the other provisions of the initiative, this one is intentional and with good reason. Dispensaries should be treated as other drug stores or dispensaries. Cities retain the ability to restrict their locations and enforce distance requirements away from residential areas, schools, etc.

But cities should not be able to outright ban these businesses merely because they provide cannabis-based medicine. Patients should not be deprived of reasonable access to their medication merely because some elected officials don’t want a dispensary in their community, hence the prohibition on this discriminatory activity.

“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”

LDS/KM is apparently worried that “this could eventually affect distribution of federal law enforcement funds to Utah.”

Here is what the initiative states: “No law enforcement officer employed by an agency that receives state or local government funds shall expend any state or local resources, including the officer’s time, to effect any arrest or seizure of cannabis, or conduct any investigation, on the sole basis of activity the officer believes to constitute a violation of federal law if the officer has reason to believe that such activity is in compliance with the state medical cannabis laws, nor shall any such officer expend any state or local resources, including the officer’s time, to provide any information or logistical support related to such activity to any federal law enforcement authority or prosecuting entity.”

In other words, if a person is compliant with this state medical cannabis law, a police officer should not spend any time attempting to investigate, arrest, or punish that person because the activity is in violation of federal law (again, because of the Schedule I classification of cannabis). This is a rather common sense point, and basically the whole purpose of the initiative — to establish a legal framework in the state because of federal obstruction on this issue.

“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”

“This is true even though federal law substantially increases penalties for distributing marijuana within 1,000 feet of schools and playgrounds,” notes LDS/KM.

This “penalty enhancement” for proximity to schools and playgrounds is something the Utah legislature recently addressed and reduced in the state’s recent criminal justice reforms, recognizing the absurdity of increasing the criminal penalty on a person merely because they happened to be located, say, 800 feet away from a park when selling their illegal drug.

We think it inappropriate to ban dispensaries from any close proximity to parks and residential areas, especially since the initiative requires them to operate a video recording system 24/7 (to which law enforcement has access) and only admit those with medical cannabis cards. A random building with a green cross on it (the only signage allowed in the initiative) that happens to be 700 feet away from a school (something that is unlikely, anyway, given current zoning layouts) is not really a concern.

It’s also important to note how few dispensaries there will be. We estimate that no more than 15 dispensaries will operate statewide. There is no reason to be concerned about proximity to homes and schools, especially with how few of these businesses there will be.

“The Marijuana Initiative Could Weaken Penalties for Causing Serious Bodily Injury while Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence of Marijuana”

LDS/KM points out that existing law makes it a second degree felony to negligently operate a motor vehicle while “having in the person’s body… marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinols, or equivalents.” They further claim that the initiative “appears to narrow this liability” to only those who ingest marijuana while operating a motor vehicle.

It is important to note that DUI laws remain enforceable if the initiative passes, and are governed under separate law. Those guilty of using cannabis and operating a vehicle are subject to a $1,000 fine, up to six months in jail, and a suspension of their license.

“The Marijuana Initiative Requires Science to Be Ignored”

Previous legislation has created a Cannabinoid Product Board comprised of physicians and medical researchers. The initiative ensures that this board’s activities cannot “limit the availability of cannabis” that is legally permitted by voters. Far from “requiring science to be ignored,” this merely restrains a bureaucratic panel from steamrolling the entire electorate.

Of course, we welcome additional scientific research and should the board identify causes of concern, they are welcome to publicly present their findings to elected officials and the public for debate and consideration to potentially amend the law in response.

“The Legislature May Choose Not to Remedy Unintended Consequences”

“State legislatures are often reluctant to amend or repeal ballot initiatives, choosing instead to respect the will of the people,” writes LDS/KM in another “legal issue.” And yet, this is purely a political issue—not legal.

Legally speaking, the legislature has every right and authority to amend or repeal the initiative. There is nothing, legally, that prevents an amendment to address any of these “concerns” in the LDS/KM analysis.

Rather, the legislature “may” choose not to change things (as their headline says), or might be “reluctant.” But it’s not impossible and certainly not illegal. And as we have privately expressed to many legislators, we’re happy to discuss concerns and bring advocates and patients together to see if any areas of improvement can be agreed upon by all sides, giving the legislature political cover for potentially changing language established by the ballot initiative.

Yet for all the “concerns” raised about intentional things the voters will support, we anticipate that that list of items of agreement will be rather short.

“Marijuana Cultivation, Distribution, and Possession are Federal Crimes with Stern Penalties”

“Congress criminalized the cultivation, distribution, and possession of marijuana,” says LDS/KM. They continue by pointing out what has already been stated — that “marijuana” is listed as a Schedule I substance, “alongside heroine [sic], methamphetamine, LSD, and mescaline.” LDS/KM then lists the many federal penalties that be imposed upon those who possess cannabis in violation of federal law.

None of this is a surprise. Numerous states have plowed this ground already, and no federal crackdown on cancer patients (for example) is occurring. The federal government’s heavy handedness is no reason for the state not to intercede on behalf of patients to protect their right to this natural treatment that can help them.

“The Marijuana Initiative Will Put Utahans at Serious Risk of Federal Prosecution”

LDS/KM points out that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a notoriously stern prohibitionist, argues that “marijuana is a dangerous drug and that marijuana activity is a serious crime.” LDS/KM is worried that “federal prosecutors may now vigorously enforce federal marijuana laws” and that patients using medical cannabis pursuant to the initiative would “violate federal marijuana laws, which could result in prosecution and imprisonment.”

We are confused… LDS/KM is not opposed to current state laws that absolutely do allow for medical cannabis users to be prosecuted and imprisoned, yet they oppose passing the initiative because federal agents might prosecute and imprison medical cannabis users.

So which is it?

We think sick Utahns should be free to make a judgment call on their own. Let the federal government do whatever it’s going to do. But the initiative at least gets state police and prosecutors off of patients’ backs. That’s a good start.

“Gun Owners Who Rely on the Marijuana Initiative May Face Severe Federal Sentences”

LDS/KM notes that because of federal law, “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.”

This is a point of recent controversy and uncertainty as to whether the federal government will actually enforce the law against tens (hundreds?) of thousands of patients nationwide. It’s certainly not a reason to scuttle the entire initiative, merely because of an outdated federal statute that is unlikely to be prosecuted against medical cannabis users. Either way, the option and risk should be left to those individuals who want both firearms and cannabis for medical use. Giving them a choice is superior to denying them a choice out of worry for them potentially violating a federal law.

“Immigrants Who Rely on the Marijuana Initiative Could Harm Their Immigration Status”

LDS/KM writes, “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.” They cite the Immigrant Legal Resource Center’s argument that an immigrant’s use of medical cannabis violates federal law and therefore may “hurt their immigration status.”

As with the firearm response above, the initiative merely offers a choice and allows individuals to assess their personal risk in light of the continued federal criminalization of cannabis. The initiative itself does not cause this problem. Any immigrant who uses cannabis in violation of federal law now, or under any alternative cannabis law Utah could pass, would still bear this same risk so long as the federal government maintains a prohibition on the possession of cannabis. Thousands of sick Utahns should not be denied access to cannabis merely because a small handful of immigrants may face problems with their immigration status.


This weak, one-sided analysis attempting to undermine the initiative does not reveal “grave concerns” or illustrate “serious adverse consequences.” It does not speak to the strengths of the initiative, the protections offered to patients, the compelling need that exists, the medical refugees the status quo has created, the harm brought to Utah families by criminalizing their medicine, or the feasibility of the proposed regulations and the ability of law enforcement to adequately police the issue.

This so-called “legal analysis” is more like a political attack piece, designed to cast fear and confusion into a debate that is better treated with a good faith discussion about the reasonableness and intent of the initiative’s proposals.

The LDS Church argued that “The negative effects and consequences of marijuana use on individuals, families, and society at large are well-known.” We do not dispute that cannabis, like any substance, can be abused. Decades of criminalization has not reduced the supply, availability, and widespread use of illegal “marijuana.”

But what’s also well-known — and completely absent in LDS/KM’s analysis — are the “negative effects and consequences” of completely prohibiting a substance that can help many people, depriving Utahns of a medicine that can help heal them or forcing them to uproot their lives and separate themselves from their support systems to relocate to a state where the government won’t punish them for trying to improve their health.

Treating health concerns with the heavy hand of the criminal justice system absolutely has negative effects and consequences that the LDS/KM analysis is notably silent about. A balanced analysis might have also mentioned the following:

  • Utah has one of the highest opiate overdose rates, a tragedy that has resulted despite these drugs being FDA-tested and dispensed in pharmacies with strict controls and regulations in place.
  • Opiate overdose fatality rates decline substantially in states that legalize medical cannabis, presenting a real opportunity to save many lives in Utah.
  • Regulators are given authority under the initiative to enter the premises of a cannabis production facility or dispensary for inspection of their property and records at any time, without a warrant.
  • Legal medical cannabis will reduce black market demand for illegal “marijuana,” reducing the profits of drug cartels and providing patients tested medicine they do not have to purchase on the street in dangerous circumstances from drug dealers who might encourage them to purchase harder, more addictive substances.
  • Patients will no longer have to fear having their children removed from their home by the Division of Child and Family Services for using an illegal substance.
  • The initiative prohibits dispensaries and doctors from advertising — no billboards, no TV or radio ads, no internet ads, etc.
  • The number of dispensaries is substantially limited so that they will be sparsely located around the state.
  • Licenses may be revoked for any business owners who violate the law.
  • Smoking medical cannabis is prohibited, as is using it in public view.
  • …and much more that the “analysis” left out.

To us, the status quo of criminalizing patients is the only substantiated “grave concern” and presents daily, real, and unnecessary “serious adverse consequences” that should be remedied. For that reason, we have worked for several years — through the legislature and now through the initiative process — to remedy a profound injustice that criminalizes patients.

We welcome reasonable, good faith discussion on the merits of the initiative but find little substance in this analysis, whose odd timing mere days before a deadline to remove signatures from the petition suggests that this is not so much a legal analysis as it is a political hit piece commissioned with the intent to paint only a one-sided picture of the issue.

Advocates have been seeking opportunities for several years to present material to LDS Church leaders that might lead to productive dialogue on this issue. We reaffirm our willingness to engage in a discussion in which all sides can be heard and where suffering Latter-day Saints can explain the harm caused by both the status quo and the Church’s ongoing opposition to efforts to change the law. Whatever the outcome of the certification of the ballot initiative, we hope that these discussions can take place and that public statements and decisions can be the byproduct of input not just from a few lawyers, but from Utahns deeply affected by this issue.

  • Mechelle Cebrowski

    Thank you for breaking this down for us!

  • Brett

    Why is a law firm writing a response to this and not some Medical organization that …ya know… understands science and medicine?

    • Icky Elbonia

      Because the rebuttal is to a “legal analysis” presented by a law firm. The original analysis was not a medical analysis. Duh

      • Brett

        That’s my point. Why was the original analysis a legal analysis and not a medical analysis?

        Isn’t THAT what is important? Shouldn’t the law be dependent on the medical consequences?
        And since the opposition took the legal route instead of the medical route, doesn’t that communicate that they don’t really care what the science and medicine really concludes?

        • Aaron Sellers

          I think the church may be much more concerned with the legal ramifications of the initiative than the medical ones.

          • McMurphy

            Plus a law firm will write what the customer wants; a medical organization might not.

          • Larry Morrison

            McMurphy, You are exactly correct they wrote it up covering the points The Paying Customer Wanted…and actually did a piss poor job of it…The (my) church should get a different Law firm under retainer.

        • Stancrow

          The legal analysis was required because the initiative is meant to be passed into law. Would you ask a medical professional to write a legal brief?

          Marijuana is a contested issue because its use transcends the medical realm, and has real legal implications, not the least of which include the fact that it remains illegal at a federal level.

          When someone proposes an initiative that can–as this one does–limit a municipalities power to control zoning, that decidedly is *not* a medical issue, but a legal one.

          The entire Kirkland-McKonkie review addresses such issues, and–as it is not the realm of legal entities to make medical assessments–appropriately avoids a medical analysis.

          I find it very unfortunate that the Libertas rebuttal seemed generally intent on ignoring the legal (and social) ramifications of the initiative. Their rebuttal was detailed, yes, but actually affirms essentially every statement made by the KM report.

          Unfortunately, Libertas apears to frame the KM analysis as an *imperative* instead, and repeatedly implies (or openly asserts) that the KM analysis dictates what the laws must be.

          A careful, thoughtful reading of both the KM analysis and of the Libertas rebuttal does show that KM is not attempting to dictate law, and that Libertas seems amply willing to ignore standing law already.

          They’re certainly welcome to disagree, and to work through the normal legal channels to change that law, which, once again, is a legal, and not a medical issue.

  • ejamesr

    I was interested in this, but wonder about your arguments in the very first claim. You state, “it specifically states that cannabis plants may not be grown in residential areas”.
    – What about non-residential areas? Can cannabis plants be grown in commercial (or other non-residential) areas if there is no dispensary within 100 miles?
    – Is there a specific reason your response says “… may not be grown in residential areas”, instead of something like “… may not be grown, period”?

    • cboyack

      The initiative does allow a patient to grow their own cannabis medicine in non-residential areas if they live more than 100 miles away from a licensed dispensary after January 1, 2021 (the date by which the government is required to provide licenses).

      • Mountain Man 21

        So then the KT/LDS statement was accurate, and your response, “The ballot initiative proposal (hereafter referred to as the “initiative”) does not allow homegrown operations” is misleading.

        You should have said something along the lines of “while it is technically true that homegrown operations are permitted in non-residential areas if they live more than 100 miles away from a licensed dispensary after January 1, 2021, these cases should be few and far between, as cannibis plants may not be grown in residential areas.”

        So effectively your FIRST POINT includes either an intentional obfuscation, or an ignorant omission (not sure which is worse honestly), which undercuts the remainder of your rebuttal.

        Similarly, the piece vacillates between a hyperbolic-fueled angry takedown (e.g., “weak,” “so-called ‘legal analysis'”) and a thoughtful, intelligent rebuttal. If this had been presented in a more adult, deliberate and professional manner, I would be more persuaded.

        As it stands, I lean towards legalization, however your rebuttal has pushed me slightly towards the other side.

  • Coradon

    No matter what the state says marijuana possession and use for ANY reason is a federal crime. Before ANY state can have legal medical marijuana it must be reclassified at a federal level. Under current federal law any possession or use will cost you your job. Even if this passes you can still be arrested and instead of given to a state court you can be handed to a federal court. The federal laws restricting marijuana is the only reason that the pharmaceutical companies have not entered the marijuana arena.

    I find the whole marijuana movement comical because they are fighting the wrong battle. One presidential order for the FBI to work with local officers to shutdown dispensaries and growers and this comes to a screeching halt. If we want marijuana for medical use then you should be talking to your congressman and senators.

    Keep in mind that the US has done no significant research on marijuana and has just started research on a throat spray. This is because of the classification of the drug. Changing the classification at the federal level will allow companies to invest tens of millions of dollars into finding other uses and applications for cannabis. I believe this approach would provide a benefit to the country and the ill. Passing bills at individual states creates companies that can’t get loans because if the bank lent them money they would be supporting illegal drug companies according the the federal law.

    • Matt P

      Coradon, I agree with you, but rescheduling and heavily researching Cannabis should have happened 10+ years ago. Due to our dysfunctional representative democracy this is unlikely to happen even now. A majority of the People don’t want to wait for Congress to reschedule, and then 10+ years for the research to build up, and then years longer for the FDA to approve expensive Cannabis derivatives from drug companies. So now it’s going to happen another way. The same way prohibition ended: The People/states standing up and overriding the federal government. I think there’s a really strong chance this will end in a constitutional amendment. Amendments are a pressure relief valve built into our Constitution for just this sort of situation.

      • Coradon

        I agree that the FDA moves way too slow most of the time. But If we can push Obamacare, Tax reform, the patriot Act through in a year or less we can change Marijuana to a schedule 2 drug in a year. That one change makes it a legal drug and then we let the free market do its thing. The dispensaries could become legal businesses. Growers would no longer have the fear of jail time looming over them.
        Europe has actually done a lot of research on cannabis and our FDA has historically taken their research and approved it in under a year. Europe (the EU) was one of the earlier groups to identify the benefits of cannabis and mote arguments that actually site medical research use the EU findings.
        A big problem we have now is most growers are growing what they can and what sells and not the strains that are highest in cannabis. Until our growers change the strain of Marijuana that they are growing the argument that this is for medical purposes doesn’t hold up for me.

        • Swagner

          The difference between this and the patriot act, etc. is that the government wanted those acts. You don’t have to convince the government to take more power, but getting it to give power up is an arduous process if it’s even possible at all.

  • Penguin

    Is mj not being moved to schedule 2?
    Push for that?

  • CamHoltoe

    So, plenty of scare tactics to ensure that yokels who take the LDS viewpoint as the literal word of the almighty can be afraid and vote against it. Cultists gonna cult

    • Melissa

      Perhaps that is an effort to influence others, but there are a lot of independent thinking members of the LDS viewpoint who will vote for the initiative. In fact, there are many who have signed the petition to bring the initiative to the ballot. Many have weighed the issue, the patients who are affected, the data that came from research, the history of effectiveness of prohibition movements in the past and present, etc. There is a lot of compelling data. The LDS leaders who released this “legal analysis” are not requiring or even telling members to vote a specific way. They are merely sharing their concerns. Perhaps Libertas’ rebuttal will influence these leaders in a positive way, as well.

      • LabLady

        Agreed, Melissa. Myself and every other member (family and friend) are in support of this initiative. Many of which are to thank for this even being a possibility.

      • Trevor Price

        Yes, yes, they are merely “inviting” everyone to read the “objective” analysis provided by a “neutral” law firm that seeks to investigate the pros and cons of the initiative.

        Please. It’s clear what the Church’s position is, and it’s clear what conclusion they expect people to take home.

        But I do agree with your defense of independent Mormons. I know a good many who are in favor of this initiative (including me).

        • Stancrow

          Given your use of quotation marks, it seems clear you doubt the objectivity of the analysis. Would you care to elaborate on which parts of the analysis you find subjective?

          • Trevor Price

            Stancrow, here’s what I basically mean:

            What kind of objective analysis only includes the negative sides of a proposition? If this were simply laying out the facts, it would also include the positive effects similar laws have had.

            Also, if you read the original post, you note how many times the law firm played fast and loose with the truth, made egregious errors, etc. Yet all this sloppiness plays suspiciously in opposition to the ballot initiative.

            It’s almost like they had a very clear, one-sided agenda, and not a desire for objective, open-ended analysis…

          • Stancrow

            I agree that objective analyses are best served by showing multiple sides of an argument. However, objectivity *needn’t* require that all aspects be shown: objectivity is about accurately stating fact, while attempting to leave aside personal interpretation or opinion of those facts. Admittedly, no one is perfect in that, but we can always try.

            Additionally, facts are often inert without a broader context–hence the desirability of seeing all sides of an argument.

            I cannot speak for Kirkland-McKonkie, but I suspect that their analysis (which was a legal analysis no matter what Libertas wishes to call it) appears to be an effort to further educate people who may have only heard the arguments so consistently presented in the rebuttal above, or who may otherwise have been unaware of the fuller implications of the initiative.

            Perhaps it’s just my circle, but given the difficult of reading most legalese, I know very few people who tend to thoroughly and thoughtfully review most ballot initiatives before voting one way or another. Libertas has presented their case. Kirkland-McKonkie,at behest of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, presented the balance of the issues.

            Libertas actually refutes only one of those issues (the “homegrown” section), but only does so on the basis of narrow semantics.

            Thus, as I said, it seems the Kirkland-McKonkie report may well have been necessary to have a more balanced and objective discussion in light of the situation (where the pro-marijuana platform may be the one more often heard).

            Did I clarify that well?

          • Stancrow

            To your other points, I welcome elaboration on where ” the law firm played fast and loose with the truth, made egregious errors, etc.”

            If I’ve missed those errors, I welcome correction.

            As for “all this sloppiness plays suspiciously in opposition to the ballot initiative,” I don’t find it suspicious at all. While the Kirkland-McKonkie analysis was just an analysis and not an imperative (which the Libertas rebuttal seems to take it as), I should think that the analysis is pretty clear as to reasons why people should at least give serious consideration before voting for the initiative, if not oppose it.

            I don’t sense any kind of cloak and dagger here. Again, as I said in my previous comment, the Libertas rebuttal (and that was a long 31 pages of a word document to read and analyze) actually affirms the Kirkland-McKonkie analysis, despite that it offers explanations for why the initiative reads as it does.

            So, yes. I expect the analysis *was* intended to sway public opinion through further education. That’s exactly what Libertas’ rebuttal attempts to do. Nothing wrong with that. I suppose I think it’s better to fully educate people *before* they decide than to let them choose based on only half the story.

            All the best.

          • Stancrow

            Odd. I replied to this response yesterday, but my reply either didn’t go through or somehow went away.

            Summarily I mentioned that objectivity *benefits* from having a broader view, certainly, but does not actually require one. Objectivity is more about making an honest attempt to leave personal interpretation and opinion aside when evaluating something.

            By all appearances, Kirkland-McKonkie did this.

            Despite what the Libertas rebuttal seems to imply, the Kirkland-McKonkie report is not a mandate or an imperative. It actually is a legal analysis, regardless whether people like what it says, and the Libertas rebuttal actually confirms (despite strident disagreement with) all but one point in the analysis; and that point is refuted based on a narrow definition of the term “homegrown,” and to the exclusion of other possible, non-residential venues.

            Hence, my question as to “which parts of the analysis did you find subjective?” In other words, I was hoping you would elaborate on where you felt Kirkland-McKonkie inserted mere opinion, rather than stating facts as they were.

            I appreciate your help and time. I hope this response actually gets through after the last one failed to.

          • Stancrow

            A year later, I finally noticed this response. As the law passed , I suppose it’s a moot point, but, hey, what the heck, right?

            I think many people would prefer and balanced an objective analysis. I use the term “balanced” because I feel that term more accurately reflects the idea of including factors both for and against a proposition. Being “objective” is more about something being measured by common metrics not subject merely to personal perspective and interpretation.

            To be fair, the Libertas rebuttal did not qualify (as I read it) as either balanced or objective; per your definition of “objective,” I read little to nothing of the negative sides of the proposition. The Kirton McKonkie analysis appears to have filled in many of those gaps, helping bring the *total* analysis–between what proponents of the proposition and its opponents were saying–to something *actually* more balanced.

            Again, it’s a moot point now.

    • Mountain Man 21

      Way to bring bigotry into the debate and undercut your own support! Bigots gonna bigot.

      • CamHoltoe

        I guess this js where we display the cult’s persecution complex… Ironic how those 15 old bigots run the state by bullying from the pulpit, mistreating everyone who isn’t white, mormon and straight, exerting influence over their lackeys in the churchislature, and making life inconvenient for gentiles.. and yet you have the agates to pretend to feel persecuted and to call bigotry on others.. I guess corruption is OK so long as the corrupt ones wear the right underwear.. you shouldn’t wonder why utah is a joke… look in the mirror

        • Mountain Man 21

          Bigots gonna bigot indeed.

          You must have some deep-seated issues to be posting a bigoted rant as a comment to an article written by a Mormon directed (at least in part), to other Mormons, many of whom agree with you! And when your bigotry is called out, you project a certain belief system onto the messenger!!

          P.S. I’m an agnostic, the kind that isn’t bigoted towards other belief systems. Just here to call a spade a spade.

          • CamHoltoe

            Yeah.. that “I’m not a mo” lie is so transparent (sorry to burst your bubble, but you’re not the first to use that lie to sound “credible”) .. but please. continue to defend your misogynist, homophobic and racist cult as they continue to repress the will of the people..

          • Lisa_Belise

            Since logic is obviously not Cameltoe’s primary defense, I suggest we ask him if he can read minds. If he says yes, he proves he’s a fool, because no human being can read minds. If he says no, then he proves he cannot possibly KNOW what your religious affiliation (if any) is, and thus calling you a liar makes him both a liar and a fool.
            Of course that renders everything he/she says to be questionable, including his declarations on the LDS Church, and undermines the Initiative as something “smart” people will support.

          • CamHoltoe

            awww… you’re upset that someone sees through your bullshit… it’s OK puddin’.. try to deflect all you want.. you’re still not able to give yourself either credibility or any semblance of unbiased thought.. the mo-bubble you reside in is strong

          • Mountain Man 21

            I honestly don’t think you realized you were replying to two different people. That, coupled with your inability to form, let alone punctuate or articulate, basic sentences in English, leads me to believe that perhaps this isn’t a fair fight. Lest I come across as a cyberbully, I’ll gracefully bow out of this one and look for someone more in the upper-double-digit IQ range.

          • CamHoltoe

            bitch bitch bitch, moan moan moan.. I am going to attack punctuation and make insults because I have no other point to make.. gracefully bowing out means you have nothing of value to add, Brother Mormon… but yeah.. you are SO capable.. and it only took you three weeks to come up with a response that you think makes you look good.. it doesn’t..

          • Mountain Man 21

            Why is “credible” in quotations? Not sure you totally grasp the concept of quotation marks. Nor apparently do you grasp the irony of your bigotry. I’m just a dude who calls out bigoted remarks. Not everyone who defends a race or religion or gender must belong to that group. But you (probably) knew that. Trolls gonna troll.

  • Bruins rock

    The only thing that you don’t mention here is that anyone using Pot with or without this change in laws for Utah will still be breaking federal laws and could be prosecuted for their actions. I dare anyone from a Marijuana legal state to try and travel on an airline with that product. Just do it and see what happens.

    • Kyle

      @Bruins rock, did you actually read before commenting? The rebuttal mentions the federal law issue several times, and points out that this is one of the reasons for the initiave in the first place.

  • John Allred

    As a physician and a member of the predominant religion – I am trying to be thoughtful about this issue. Some of the points above are sound and valid. A great ethical topic.
    Facts that are well-presented are compelling.
    Be careful with emotionally charged statements that are blatantly false. When I read a falsehood, I feel the motives of the author / group outweigh evidence, thus weakening your stance rather than augmenting it.
    For example, Libertas states …”Also of note: the American Medical Association (who, alongside their state affiliate, has fought the initiative with their substantial financial resources) has opposed efforts to require physicians to be trained before prescribing opioids.”
    This is simply FALSE.
    Physicians are REQUIRED to recertify and obtain ‘continued medical education’ every three years to prescribe Scheduled drugs . Every physician MUST go thru this training to prescribe Controlled Substances in accordance with Sections 304 and 1008 (21 USC 824 and 958O of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970). We must maintain this CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE REGISTRATION CERTIFICATE that is on record with the United States Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration, Washington DC 20537
    We must pay $731 out of our pockets to maintain this privilege. If we don’t go thru this process we CANNOT prescribe opioids.
    So. The American Medical Association absolutely, positively does NOT OPPOSE EFFORTS to require physicians to be trained before prescribing opioids. They comply with the DEA’s DEMANDS and REQUIREMENTS.
    Thanks for allowing me to weigh in. I welcome respectful responses. This is an interesting and important issue.

    • cboyack
    • Tepoerava Kaaumoana

      John Allred- could you be confusing the different agencies that exist in the US?

    • sgallen

      John, I just renewed my DEA license. Yes, we have to pay $731. There was a question asking if I had completed opiate CME within the last 2 years, but it was optional. I clicked yes, but I could have received the DEA license without clicking the box.

    • Stancrow


      I think thoughtful dialogue is vital to this issue. When it becomes apparent that emotionally-laden terms are used as driving arguments, however, that does raise questions about whether personal motives are being allowed to overshadow the broader context of the issue.

  • LabLady

    Thank you for such a detailed rebuttal. As an LDS member who supports the initiative, and has worked with countless other LDS to see the day medicinal use is legalized, please know that grouping entire persons based off of a select few individuals is unhelpful. There are many LDS to thank for this initiative even being a possibility. Will share this with all.

  • Pingback: Utah's Medical Cannabis Program Battle Heats Up - Hemp Gazette()

  • James

    I haven’t seen a petition for this initiative. I would have and still will sign it if someone can point me to where one is.

    My best friend and his family moved out of state so that his kids could get the medical treatment they needed for their epilepsy.

    Reading each side’s argument of this makes it clear who is making the most moral and rational argument. If this doesn’t pass this year, it will eventually. Unfortunately, people will continue to suffer unduly insofar as the false traditions of our fathers blinds our policy-makers/influencers. History will not look kindly on the opposition of this issue.

    To those making the claim that we should give up the state fight and just hope that the national fight will prevail, study the “Principles of 98” that Thomas Jefferson and James Madison defended. Study what limited powers the federal government has in the constitution (hint: regulating plants isn’t one of them). Study the 10th amendment. Nullifying unconstitutional usrpations is one of the checks and balances we have as a people.

  • Pingback: I just wrote a cited 4-page reply to a member who bought into the fear-based Kirton Mckonkie memo on Marijuana. Tell me what you think? TL;DR at the bottom – Rant Pants()

  • Thank you for stating the facts so concisely. I became a medical refugee with my daughter when she was fighting brain cancer, and I did not have the freedom in Utah to use Cannibas for her. I am a strong, upstanding Latter-Day Saint, yet I felt criminalized for wanting to help and do what was best to save my daughter’s life.

    We ran out of conventional treatment options for my daughter, so I had to take her out of our home, away from her father, siblings and friends to try cannabis in Nevada. It was a sad and lonely time for us, with very few places to educate ourselves and speak openly with healthcare providers to determine the best courses of action.

    I believe we need to decrease our fear, and provide more education and freedom to help our loved ones. Our Heavenly Father gave us this plant, which has huge potential for good. We will learn from science and experience how to manage any risks, and also more greatly benefit from the amazing healing properties of Cannabis.

    • Stan

      Cannabis does not cure cancer, sorry I wish it did. My brother has it. Marijuana is in the class of opioids – paid releaf. And the cannabis oil is the only part that could benefit your daughter through this trial of hers, but it is available here in Utah. I have friend with arthritis that use it daily. So sorry you thought that you need to go to Nevada for that.
      Good Luck, I’ll pray for you and your daughter & family

      • Thank you for offering prayers, but my daughter passed away. There are studies that show cannabis is sometimes effective at reducing tumor size. We can’t say that it doesn’t help cure, when we don’t have enough science to prove otherwise. The bottom line is, we should have freedom to try other forms of cannabis along with the oil, for medical purposes.

      • sgallen

        Marijuana is not an opiate– it’s a cannabinoid. And full strength cannabis oil is not available in utah yet.

  • Raymond Moore

    As a visitor to this state, I found it odd that Utah has a debate over Medical Cannibus. This is an herb, that relieves pain and used as medicine. It works in peer review in Canada and Israel, funny it looses its efficacy in the miles between us.
    Education is the answer here. There are CE. Credits available that may assist in the process.
    Respectfully, R. Moore RN.

    • I watched a documentary on Netflix called “A Life Of It’s Own.” I recommend it. I was fascinated by how much great research has come out of Israel. I watched as an Orthodox Jew in Israel used it to alleviate her pain when nothing else would. She was so paralyzed with pain she couldn’t walk. After taking a dose of her strain of medical cannabis, she was able to walk herself to the bathroom and had no pain. Her husband stated it was a miracle plant from God.

  • TiminProvo

    When the government removes choice (agency) from man it elevates itself to replace God. When you support tyranny you kneel at the altar of the tyrant. Why would the LDS church support a tyrant except to placate Gadianton especially when it uses a slithering snake farm to lie to it’s members and the citizens of the state? As a faithful member of the LDS church, I can only wonder why it does what it does.

    • Stan

      So we should just let everyone get all the OxyContin they then, right? Or the crack, opium… whatever they want. Will just make sure that they live next door to you.

      Look, we make choices everyday, some of those choices can have consequences, thus our agency.

      We have laws so that we can have some semblance of freedom to act and do as we please. If we have no laws and authority to make sure wrongs are punished, then we actually go right back into the old west where I meet you with my gun drawn pointing at you. Waiting to see what you are going to do. Not trusting anyone, is that the life you really want. Take a visit to the Watts suburb of LA, lots of agency there, good luck.

      • Ed Ludeman

        I’m sure Jesus would crack down hard on them, gather them into prison away from their families, and he definitely wouldn’t want them to be next door to him.

        Sounds like you already don’t trust anyone to be able to make their own decisions (aka agency). And your apparent solution is to take as much of that agency away as you can from everyone??

  • Stan

    All the good parts of marijuana are legal in Utah already, THC is and does nothing for you but brain damage.
    Let’s learn from Colorado, watch this and learn please –

    And some said the big money is fighting this initiative, — NO the BIG MONEY is coming from BIG MARIJUANA Co., they have billions to spend to legalize this in every state. And they are spending it. Question is how much $$$ is Libertas is getting????

    • HDmom

      When a substance goes through studies for an FDA application the studies test for safety and efficiacy. The process for approval takes about 12 years and costs hundreds of millions of dollars.

      For the last 22 years medicinal marijuana has been legal in California where thousands of people have used it safely and where it’s proven efficacious for a number of illnesses and conditions. Even placebos meet the FDA’s test for efficacy. So, why on earth would anyone want the FDA involved in testing an herb-marijuana-which has already met the requirements of their testing process for new drugs? All that would do is send the cost of medicinal marijuana through the roof. A one month supply of synthetic THC – Marinol – costs $692 – thanks to the FDA. It makes more sense that pharma and the AMA want to prevent the widespread use of a plant that is safe and efficacious – because of the lost potential in the development of a “new drug”.

      Utahans could insist on studies and more studies and a few more studies and FDA approval and hundreds of millions of dollars, but to what end? To prove that a plant which has been used medicinally for thousands of years is safe and efficacious? That’s already been done. It’s time to stop acting out of fear and legalize marijuana.

      FInally, while there may be articles on arguing both sides of the impact of THC on the brain, a 2003 article on webMD references a studies which concludes marijuana use does NOT cause brain damage see:

      • Stan

        Did you watch the video? It’s for the most part, all in there, who is using who? I think big marijuana companies are using this for their gain. I heard the same arguments back in the sixties for tobacco, someone was lying then, I think some one is lying now. Follow the BIG money, and who gains from what? Everyone is screaming about how they want this so bad. I just have not seen a whole lot of good coming from THC, only the oil has shown some benefit to a portion of people that have been in trials. I agree the cost of bring a drug to market is costly, but oil is available NOW, with out this initiative.
        I’m seeing an enormous cost in other states that legalized it, and not just from its aduse. Especially in the schools. Talk about dumbing down our schools, this will do it for sure, then where will we be? Better off? I think not. I would like to see the studies of how California, Colorado, Oregon… are doing with the education, test scores, etc. of their child now compared to before the legalization of marijuana. No brain here?
        I just don’t see any benefit that comes from legalizing this, other than letting people get their fix. Like alcohol, this will bring huge social costs, while benefiting the few, while the rest of us get to pay those social cost. In death and money. Alcohol has been around as long if not longer than marijuana.
        Whatch the video. – from Colorado.

    • David Eldredge

      I watched your video. I would like to know where he did get his data.. I think some of it may be a stretch. His main concern is the retail/wholesale market for recreation. Anyone who studies cannabis knows that excessive THC is dangerous; THC not well balanced with CBD and other cannabinoids. The medical side of this industry knows that. THC in excess can lead to significant psychosis. There is indeed a balance. There are so many distressing illnesses that cannot be treated by pharmaceuticals. CBD all on its own is not effective for many conditions. THC balanced with the other cannabinoids is required. I am in favor of safe distribution to those who benefit from cannabis where other conventional methods have failed. I am also in favor of growing my own holistic garden of not just CBD/THC balanced plants but all effective plants used for treatment.

      • Nathan Hale

        Your thoughtful factual contribution here is appreciated. It is truly remarkable how so many are so misinformed. Its such a shame that so many are unable to grasp what self governance is about. Ignorance and fear are always found clamoring , raising a din together.
        Hemp has been abundantly beneficial for mankind throughout history. Its only recently that it became “illegal” and that was orchestrated by greedy corporate “legal” action. Its not difficult to educate oneself on the matter.
        If only Americans would wake up and see the unique constitutional republic they have miraculously inherited. Americans must learn to stand on law and principle, cease being subjects to unconstitutional “legal “corporate rule with all its divisiveness. Gadiantons are here now folks, not just in the past..
        Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness shall not be infringed. That is the law. It does not say may not, it says SHALL not.
        People , by law may grow what they want so long as they are not infringing on others. Liberty and freedom from unrighteous dominion are simple concepts, until the perpetrators of chaos start spinning their deception…

    • newsies2

      I respect your viewpoint but you are mistaken. The BIG money is in prescription drugs. Cannabis is a whole plant where all properties work together and produce what is called an “Entourage Effect” meaning that all the properties working together produce the medicinal benefits. Cannabis like anything else can be abused but that doesn’t mean that Cannabis doesn’t have redeeming qualities. There are some People who shouldn’t use Cannabis just like it is with any other substance. The only reasons why Cannabis has since 1937 been taken away from People are Politics, Current thinking, and Money. Well the People are researching for themselves now. Long gone is the time when a certain body of Individuals get to decide what you know and what you don’t know. That’s why Prop 2 is on the ballad.

  • Bird Song

    EXCELLENT!! Thank you.

  • David Eldredge

    Has anyone from this side of the discussion had any direct contact with Kriton/McConkie? Is it possible to have a dialog? Is there any evidence that anyone from their team took time to objectively listen to this side of the discussion before writing their brief? Would it be of any use for us to attempt to talk to them at this point perhaps come to some middle ground and understanding and in hopes that they might retract some of their conclusions in their presentation? Perhaps one can write a standard letter that we can all send to them, via fax or if we knew what attorneys have the most power to exam our view send directly to their email. I think a fax is harder to dismiss.

  • Greg Droge

    I find this group’s analysis to be very poor. The writing seems to be intent on driving an emotional response rather than presenting pure facts. They frequently use inflamatory language, directly calling things “stupid” despite there being a national debate with very intelligent people on both sides of the isle. The McConkie firm analyzed the potential legal impacts of the law. A good deal of the rebuttle statements speak only of what the intent was and the reasoning behind it. This in no way negates the stated potential legal impact of the law. It also has very contradictory arguments. On one side it wants doctors to be free to recommend Cannabis – why should a bueracratic process limit our physicians, but on the other it mocks the opiod epidemic (maybe there should be restrictions, epsecially if we do not completely understand it).

    This supposed rebuttle is solely meant to invoke an emotional response with very little foundation for actually negating the analysis of the McConkie law firm. You could summarize almost every rebuttle with, “This is true, but … .” Tell you what, it is a legal analysis so it doesn’t really matter what comes after the “but.” The analysis of the McConkie law is simply to tell you what the possible legal ramifications are, not to describe what the intent was behind the initiative.

  • Marlowe Wood

    I remember back when the polio vaccine was made available to the public, can you guess who drug their feet. That’s right, the brethren believed the priesthood of god was more than sufficient to joust with polio. Polio was fair, no discrimination, and no respect for the Mormon priesthood. So when general authorities and the brethren heard the cries from their own children and the rank and file were getting tired of going to children funerals, they did the right thing and drew up a revelation. I spend a good part of my time waiting to hear the nurse say, “Mr. Wood the doctor will see you now.” I believe I could be the poster boy for why medicinal marijuana should be available to those who raise their hands and say, “for the love of Aphrodite, Thor, and Casper the Ghost let those people have their medication.” In conclusion, while in the waiting room we sick people talk. If cannibas can replace some of the nightmare drug we take every day, please step aside and let us take medication with far fewer side effect and less risk. Well represented in our little visits are the Mormons. The LDS/KM is doing just what they did back in 1950, suggesting to their members and the population of Utah that happily they are not suffering,yet. When the suffering reaches them, they’ll draw up an nice revelation.

  • RogerB

    A favor please? Unless I spaced over it, i can’t find a link above to the text of the Initiative itself. Can someone post that?

    • Coradon

      CBD oil
      For those that don’t know. Hemp and Marijuana are different strains of the same plant. Those hemp ropes that you have used. Most hemp we use is from the stalk but you can find oil pressed from the seeds and the leafs. The difference between hemp and marijuana is hemp doesn’t have as much THC (the drug that gives you the high) in it. But it has the same amount of CBD.
      Many people claim they they have the same medical effect from taking hemp cannabis instead of marijuana cannabis. Hemp cannabis you can buy from Amazon.

  • Kolton crane

    The post stated that the doctor determines what to prescribe it for. I’ve seen documentaries of doctors in California saying they’ve never denied someone because everyone has head aches or anxiety. I know people with Lyme disease that could really benefit but if this is going to be like California then they’re basically legalizing it for recreation because everyone can have a head ache. It’ll finally be legal for football players to use it before a game that’s the funny part.

  • I am an RN (and upstanding former LDS member) living in Utah. I triage phone calls for hospice patients and their loved ones from at least 20 states. I am licensed in all states where I practice. In CA and WA, where cannabis has been legalized, I have patients and families whom call in that have access to this medication. I have recently received CE (continuing education) in order to best support patients that have a physician’s order for cannabis or medical marijuana, to alleviate their suffering. As a society, we must do the right thing, and allow those who suffer not to be criminalized for receiving a treatment that is much more safe that when patients are given opiates. For instance the painful side effects of opiod induced constipation may be bypassed, while still alleviating pain! Cast aside bias from an era in which this substance was demonized and vindictive administrations worked to color our mindsets in ways that have hurt many. That mindset has subsequently has cost our society in a multitude of ways. Be informed, and envision a future where people can self govern and enjoy what our forefathers and mothers envisioned and fought for, a world of liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

    • newsies2

      Your post isTotally spot on. I am at least encouraged that in Utah this issue is not going away, even if the powers that be are trying their best to make it do so. Well prescription drugs including opiates are HUGE moneymakers What bothers me though is that even if Prop 2 passes, the State is going to make it as hard as they can to use Cannabis. I personally believe that People should be allowed to grow their own plants if they live outside of residential areas, and Adutls should have the freedom to smoke a joint if they want to. It should be regulated just like Alcohol.

  • I watched a documentary on Netflix called “A Life Of It’s Own, the truth about medical marijuana.” I recommend it. I was fascinated by how much great research has come out of Israel. I watched as an Orthodox Jew in Israel used it to alleviate her pain when nothing else would. She was so paralyzed with pain she couldn’t walk. After taking a dose of her strain of medical cannabis, she was able to walk herself to the bathroom and had no pain. Her husband stated it was a miracle plant from God.

    • newsies2

      When People start doing there own research to find out for themselves, to find out about things, it opens their eyes. I did the same thing. I got on the internet and started researching the heck on the subject of Cannabis. Spain is another country that has clinically researched Cannabis and they are finding very positive outcomes. There is a well known Jewish Doctor in Israel that has been researching Cannabis. A well known Doctor from Israel has researched Cannabis there for years. You can find video interviews with him on YouTube. I can’t remember the details but there were findings in the U.S. talking about Cannabis being used medically. When Nixon established the DEA and declared the war on drugs there was drug schedule created to classify drugs illegal and legal. Marijuana was made a Schedule I drug meaning that there was no redeeming value same as heroin and it’s been there ever since. Here is an article that gives you a background on just exactly what happened.

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  • Stancrow

    I’m rather surprised by this rebuttal: I expected it to refute the Kirkland-McKonkie report, rather than support and affirm it.

    I must admit, however, that I’m rather disappointed (putting it mildly) by Libertas’ analysis and their manifest willingness to promote the violation of law (apparently on the mere grounds of disagreeing with it), and to promote impedence of those who we’ve hired to uphold the law.

    Frankly, I think Libertas should be ashamed of that stance, regardless the noble face they put on their rebuttal.

    • brentmayberry

      How has the KM report been affirmed? Also, our country has a great legacy of violating unjust laws. This initiative is a valid instance of doing just that.

      • Stan Johnson


        The Libertas rebuttal actual refutes only one point in the KM analysis–namely that of “homegrown” marijuana. The remainder of the points are either not refuted, or are stated as being correct, though the rebuttal goes on to explain the reasons why they feel those initiative measures are valid.

        Even with respect to the “homegrown” marijuana, the rebuttal relies on a fairly narrow (if very reasonable) interpretation of “homegrown” by pointing out that the Initiative restricts marijuana growth in residential areas. It does not, however, appear to restrict marijuana grown *outside* residential areas by private individuals–essentially “homegrown” if not specifically “grown in a home.”

        As for a “Great legacy of violating unjust laws,” I suppose the initial Revolution would be a good example of that–one I think we’d likely all agree with. However, violating laws is still violating laws. I don’t see the argument of “a great legacy” holding up well in federal court; that’s what the KM report warns about.

        Why not simply petition for a change to the *federal* law, whereupon states that legalised marijuana would then be at liberty to pass their own laws?

        The Kirkland-McKonkie point correctly points out (and the Libertas refubuttal repeatedly concurs) that legalization in Utah (or any other state) does *not* prevent violation of Federal law–thus, the reason the rebuttal condemns criminalization of those producing, possessing, or using illegal marijuana.

        The KM report does not appear to be intended as prescriptive: only informative of issues that may present actual problems in practice. Whether those problems arise has yet to be seen, but I think it’s wise to be aware of them and give consideration to the broader implications of the initiative.

        Did I clarify my intent?

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  • Marlowe Wood

    Victoria Christine, thank you for the tip “A Life Of It’s Own, the truth about marijuana.” The documentary punctuates the point that it is a powerful option for many suffering people to find relief. Just recently parents were arrested, taken from their home and their child who suffers with horrible seizures. Because they love their child and cannabis was a treatment option that actually brought relief, they find themselves on the sharp edge of the law. If ever a case should be heard by the supreme court, I believe this one should go to the front of the line. The supreme court just ruled that gambling will be legal in all fifty states, if they knew the injustices that occur everyday, I believe they would rule on behalf of the people.

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  • Larry Morrison

    As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I’m not sure why (my Church) is paying good money to a Law Firm that spews such outright lies about this initiative.

    I also find it very Ironic* The LDS Church would accept “and Publish” this analysis that even by Name and Title is meant to mislead and reinforce bias dealing with the “Utah Medical Cannabis Act”…When (knowingly) and Prejudicially calling it “The Marijuana Initiative”.

    *Ironic since ‘Marijuana’ is the (decades old) Mexican slang term used for Cannabis…Very Much the same as someone referring to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints” and/ or its members as “Plygs” a Sect…or heaven forbid “Mormon” (perhaps you have also seen this weeks Press Release by the LDS Church requesting using the correct and accurate name of The LDS Church….?)

    • Penguin

      FDA needs down classify

  • Matt Park

    This is a well done rebuttal to the analysis the LDS Church and the coalition sent out. I hope people will vote not according to how the LDS Church directions them, but that they read both sides to the story and think about the consequences of passing Prop2 and not passing Prop2

  • Do I have to put a name?

    This article certainly does not encourage discussion from people with opposing views. It makes me concerned to present my questions and comments for fear of being publicly ridiculed as being stupid. Why does this rebuttal attack other people? I simple want answers to questions. I liked reading the Kirton McConkie legal analysis because it was straight forward about legal consequences and possible ramifications. This rebuttal altogether blurred the medical and the legal. I find myself more persuaded to the concerns presented by Kirton McConkie because it is direct. I’m no expert so go easy on me in your criticism. I just had to read this for a school assignment about rhetoric.

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  • newsies2

    While I believe that Some Church leaders have an ideological objection to Cannabis, I believe more object for very concrete reasons. Big Pharma and the AMA are very influential and powerful no matter what State one lives in. From what I understand every state has lobbyists from Drug companies in their state capitals and that there are Politicians who get lobbied by these People. Let’s not pretend that there isn’t big money involved in the sale of legal drugs and the promotion of medical procedures in this state. Going to a dispensary to obtain Cannabis takes the money away from everyone else, and they are not going to sit still for it. What gets me about Utah Leaders Government and otherwise are going to do everything they can to make it hard to get Cannabis even from a dispensary. It makes me want to move to another state that recognizes my Freedom as an Adult to make my choices regarding Cannabis use.

  • Seth Stewart

    The essence of this whole argument can be summed up as
    “Pretend that drug abusers don’t exist. They don’t exist, right? And nobody would ever, ever think of abusing marijuana or persuading millions of others to get hooked on it for financial gain because of a legal loophole… ever. Right? Therefore, the defects of Proposition 2 outlined by this study do not exist.”
    Except that people abuse drugs and try to convince or coerce others to get hooked on them for financial gain every hour and every minute of every day.

    “In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days, I have warned you, and forewarn you, by giving you this Word of Wisdom by revelation”
    These are the words of God introducing His warnings to us on this very matter.
    Doctrine and Covenants section 89

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  • This is intentional. Why? Again, because cannabis is a Schedule I substance and thus illegal for this type of use under federal law. Initiative proponents do not want the federal government to have a lengthy list of people violating federal law, and therefore those records should be destroyed after two months.

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