Cannabis and Latter-day Saints
In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), there is a general prohibition, deriving from the Word of Wisdom, against intoxicating substances, with cannabis explicitly banned by the church since 1915.
In August 1915, the LDS Church banned the use of cannabis by its members, and two months later the state of Utah banned cannabis. Some scholars have linked the two events, arguing that cannabis usage by Mormon returnees who had earlier fled to Mexico led the church, and later the state to make its decision. Others contradict this, noting that Utah‘s prohibition laws were part of a larger package of anti-drug laws which happened to include cannabis, but did not indicate a statewide concern.
The decriminalization effort in 1971 was said to be strong in Utah due to the state’s high rate of use of cannabis, and Mormon members’ preference to handle matters within the church and family.
Response to modern cannabis movement
As medical and recreational cannabis decriminalization movements began in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century in the United States, the LDS Church has been asked for its position on the issue.
In a 2010 conference for local church leaders in Colorado, General Authorities of the church, including now current church President Russell M. Nelson, explained in answer to a question that the church has no position on medical marijuana and that the issue was left to individual consultation with scriptures and a member’s Bishop. This same stance was later reiterated in a private discussion among the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in a 2010 video that was made public in 2016. The discussion included consensus that the church opposed recreational marijuana use more broadly but had no position on medical use specifically.
In February 2016, the church released a statement supporting efforts to legalize CBD oil in Utah, but not whole-plant cannabis remedies:
While we are not in a position to evaluate specific medical claims, the Church understands that there are some individuals who may benefit from the medical use of compounds found in marijuana. For that reason, although the Church opposes SB 73, it has raised no objection to SB 89. These two competing pieces of legislation take very different approaches when it comes to issues like access, distribution, control and the potential harm of the hallucinogenic compound, THC.
In October 2016, the First Presidency of the LDS Church sent a letter to congregations in California, Nevada, and Arizona (states which were to vote on legalized recreational cannabis in November), urging members to oppose legalization:
Drug abuse in the United States is at epidemic proportions, and the dangers of marijuana to public health and safety are well documented. Recent studies have shed light particularly on the risks marijuana use poses to brain development in youth. The accessibility of recreational marijuana in the home is also a danger to children. … We urge Church members to let their voices be heard in opposition to the legalization of recreational marijuana.
- E.J. Sanna (2 September 2014). Marijuana: Mind-Altering Weed. Mason Crest. pp. 88–. ISBN 978-1-4222-9299-0.
- David E. Newton (16 January 2017). Marijuana: A Reference Handbook, 2nd Edition. ABC-CLIO. pp. 62–. ISBN 978-1-4408-5052-3.
- Clark, D.S. (2007). Encyclopedia of Law and Society: American and Global Perspectives. SAGE Publications. p. 508. ISBN 978-0-7619-2387-9.
- “Gehrke: LDS Church’s stance on medical marijuana doesn’t make sense. Why is it OK for a Nevada Mormon but not a Utah Mormon?”. The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved 2018-08-22.
- Mormon Leaks (2016-10-02), In Which They Fret Over the Growing Popularity of Marijuana, retrieved 2018-08-22
- Wells, David (February 12, 2016). “LDS Church issues new statement on medical marijuana”. KSTU (fox13now.com). Retrieved 2017-03-06.
- Curtis, Larry D. (October 13, 2016). “LDS leaders urge members to vote against legalizing marijuana”. KUTV. Retrieved 2017-03-06.
- Katie McKellar (February 12, 2016), “Research and control at center of marijuana debate; LDS Church issues new statement”, Deseret News
- Madison Margolin (March 8, 2016), “How Mormons Are Leading Utah’s Fight for Medical Marijuana: The church presents a tricky obstacle for patients and advocates in this deeply conservative state”, Vice