It seems the Mormon Church has finally come around to the benefits of medical marijuana.
Breaking with its own longstanding prohibition on substances of all types including alcohol, tobacco, illegal drugs and even coffee LDS leadership has reluctantly sided with pot activists to back legislation allowing medical marijuana to be sold in Utah. With considerable religious weight now behind the movement for legal pot, it looks likely that medicinal marijuana will soon become a reality in the traditionally conservative state.
So, What Changed?
The monumental shift in Mormon thinking should not be understated. LDS members adhere to very strict health guidelines known as the "Word of Wisdom" which dictates that "illegal drugs can especially destroy those who use them."
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' sudden about-face came after months of fierce debate, during which prominent LDS leaders argued strongly against allowing legal pot in any form. This surprisingly change of heart took many advocates off guard, considering the church has long been a primary opponent in the battle to ease marijuana restrictions. The LDS global leader, Jack Gerard, is apparently no longer worried the medical stores will encourage broader pot use. In a statement backing medical marijuana, Gerard described being "thrilled" to be part of a movement that will "alleviate human pain and suffering."
There are some caveats, however. The compromise the church has agreed to won't allow patients who live too far from a dispensary to grow their own pot. It also outlaws the production of edible THC products like cookies and brownies that could potentially be appealing to children.
The Death of Reefer Madness
Compromises aside, the simple fact that some form of medical marijuana is set to pass in conservative Utah underscores a radical shift in our society's attitude toward the once-feared drug. Medical marijuana use is already legal in over 30 states, with Missouri up to bat on the November ballot as well. Although still a tough sell on the federal level, individual states are realizing that it's easier to regulate a drug than to start a war against it and much cheaper, too.
As more states move to allow medical marijuana or even legalize the plant entirely it seems increasingly likely that pot will become legal nationwide in our lifetimes. Will religious groups choose to be on forefront of this revolution in thinking, or remain stubborn holdouts until the end?