Utah Senator Mark Madsen said fighting old perceptions about pot have made his efforts to legalize medical marijuana an uphill battle. Then came another hurdle Friday when the Mormon Church said it opposed his bill.
Still, Madsen, who is Mormon, said he won’t back down because polls show most Utah residents support the proposed law. Plus, people with serious medical conditions could really use the pain relief.
“It would be immoral to back down,” he said.
Madsen said he loves his church and reveres the leaders of the LDS church but he also said he is acting on principle in pushing the legislation because he knows it will make a huge difference in people’s lives.
“I don’t want to let them down,” he said.
On Monday, three days after the Mormon Church said it opposed his bill because legalizing marijuana could have “unintended consequences”, Madsen said he’d lost one, possibly two votes from lawmakers who were swayed by the Church’s public announcement.
Madsen said he doesn’t know why LDS church leaders oppose the bill. They haven’t explained what they think are the “unintended consequences.”
Madsen said every time he’s tried to meet with church leaders to discuss his bill, he gets a vague response. He’d love to sit down with them an discuss all the research in support of the legislation.
He said if the LDS Church, which has a big influence on Utah culture and politics wants to weigh in on an issue, they should say more.
“They people that are affected by it, I think, might be entitled to some kind of explanation,” he said of the church’s public statement.
Madsen said he’ll have to work harder to convince other colleagues about the benefits of medical marijuana as a safer alternative to prescription pain medications which are addictive and can be deadly. The Utah Department of Health said in 2014, 288 Utahns died after overdosing on prescription pain medications.
Madsen himself nearly died in 2007, when he accidentally overdosed on prescription pain medication.
His doctor prescribed him a fentanyl patch for back pain. The patch burst, sending the medication right into his bloodstream. His kids found him on the couch. He was cold and not breathing. His family revived him with the help of 911.
That’s when he first became concerned about finding safer alternatives to opioids or prescription pain medications.
Years later, when children with severe epilepsy told lawmakers they wanted the legalization of marijuana oil to help with their severe seizures, Madsen said he knew he had to do something.
“I realized there were people out there who were suffering,” he said.