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Church leaders urge Utah lawmakers to legalize medical marijuana this year

FILE PHOTO (Steven Senne, Associated Press)

SALT LAKE CITY — Citing “grave concerns” about the a medical marijuana November ballot initiative, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is urging the Governor to call a special legislative session to address the issue.

Gov. Herbert’s office says the Governor will only call a special session if there is a near-consensus, but is not considering one now since there is not an alternate bill on the table to look at.

The coalition opposing Proposition 2 — which includes the Church –is currently working to craft legislation legalizing medical marijuana.

“We think we can have those principles in the next couple of weeks that then legislators  and the Governor can look at, they can tweak as they need to,” says Director of Community and Government Relations Marty Stephens for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The group fronting Prop. 2, the Utah Patient’s Coalition, is not deterred by statements and moves made by the Church and opposing coalition.

“This idea of a special [session] isn’t anything new,” says Utah Patient’s Coalition Director D.J. Schanz. “It’s something that we’ve always had a concern about. We’re going to remain vigilant.”

The Church is reaffirming its support of medical marijuana by helping author legislation without what it sees as negative consequences associated with Prop 2.

Stephens says, “if it is done appropriately, and we believe that there’s a way that Utah can do that.”

The Utah Patient’s Coalition, citing the time and money spent getting Prop 2. onto the November ballot, believes it should be up to the people of Utah.

“Thousands of people have worked long hours, people have donated all kinds of money to make this happen” says Schanz. “It’s on the people’s plate right now to make the decision.”

Responding to criticism that the Church is now too heavily involved in the issue, Stephens says critics are missing an important church obligation.

“One of the responsibilities churches have is to be a watchman on the tower and to help communities look out for adverse consequences,” says Stephens.