It’s hard to leave the church alone when the church can’t seem to leave non-members alone. By encouraging members to vote against medicinal cannabis in Utah, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is once again trying to limit the agency of unaffiliated citizens who want to make adult decisions for their health without religious interference.

It would be fine for the church to encourage members not to use cannabis (which gets called by its Spanish name “marijuana” because of racist government officials’ attempts to link it to Mexican crime. They also claimed it created Satanic music like jazz and swing and caused white women to have “sexual relations with negroes”—GASP! ), but trying to block it for all citizens is at best, ill informed and at worst, malicious.

From 2013 to 2015, Utah ranked 7th highest in the nation for drug overdose deaths and alcohol poisoning. In 2015, 24 individuals died every month from a prescription opioid overdose in Utah, and general drug overdoses killed more Americans than the entire Vietnam War or AIDS epidemic.

Of all those deaths, NONE were from cannabis because, according to the DEA, precisely ZERO people in recorded history have ever overdosed on it.

In the face of such a raging LEGAL drug crisis, why then is the church so terrified of this non-chemically addictive plant that humans have been safely using for thousands and thousands of years?

The reason they cite in their official letter is the fear that people, the youth particularly, will have easier access. While it is true that marijuana can have averse affects on young people with predispositions to mental illness, cannabis is actually much safer than many LEGAL substances like tobacco, alcohol, opioids, or even sugar, which is more addictive than cocaine and responsible for at least 184,000 deaths per year.

In states where cannabis has been fully legalized, teen usage has actually dropped. Not only that, legal states have also witnessed a 6.5 percent decrease in opioid-related deaths (American Journal of Public Health, November 2014) and a 15 percent drop in alcohol sales.

Legalization means that the people who want safer alternatives for treating things like chronic pain (including that associated with HIV/AIDS and Crohn’s disease), Alzheimer’s, arthritis, epilepsy, glaucoma, and  multiple sclerosis can do so without being treated like criminals.

In light of so much evidence demonstrating the medicinal and economic advantages of cannabis, the church’s ongoing crusade against Utah citizens makes me wonder if they’re the ones smoking something!

Perhaps it’s the $1.3 BILLION in big pharma stocks the church currently owns. Perhaps it’s just an example of Joseph Smith’s observation that “it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion” (D&C 121:39). Whatever the actual reason, it is clear that the church has no place infringing on the freedoms of a secular society.

If you think alcohol is bad, don’t drink. If you think sex is bad, don’t have sex. If you think eating shellfish is bad, don’t eat shellfish. If you think uncovering your hair in public is bad, don’t uncover your hair in public. If you think working on Saturday is bad, don’t work on Saturday. If you think ingesting cannabis is bad, don’t ingest cannabis.

The essence of freedom is that you can do what YOU want to do without being arbitrarily forced to abide another person’s moral code. Our ancestors fought and died so we, not the theocracies, could make moral, spiritual, and medical decisions for ourselves. Church leaders should take to heart Joseph Smith’s policy to “teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves.”

I don’t know about any war in heaven, but I do know there is a battle going on today between those who want to preserve human freedom and those who want to curtail it. Though the church will continue seeking to destroy the agency of Utah citizens, we still have the chance to preserve our liberty by voting YES on Prop 2!



Tanner Gilliland is a writer, artist, and jazz hands enthusiast based in Salt Lake City, UT. Check out his art on Instagram: @tanner_gilliland, his jokes on Twitter: @tgilliland789, and his poverty on Venmo: Tanner-Gilliland

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