Ben McAdams will vote for Prop 2 to legalize medical marijuana; Mia Love is undecided

Candidates in the close 4th Congressional District race are staking out different positions on this year’s most hotly contested ballot issue: Proposition 2 legalizing medical marijuana.

Democratic Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams favors it, while incumbent GOP Rep. Mia Love says she is undecided.

Both say they see advantages to medical marijuana. Both also are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and say while they carefully consider the faith’s opposition to the initiative, that alone is not a deciding factor for them.

Each candidate responded in writing to Tribune questions on the topic.

McAdams wrote that he will vote for Prop 2 “out of compassion for individuals suffering from illness and debilitating conditions.”

He added, “I also support declassifying marijuana from a Schedule 1 [outlawing it federally] to a Schedule 2 drug to allow more medical research. I support allowing medical marijuana’s use under a doctor’s prescription and with appropriate controls and safeguards regarding its dispensing and usage.”

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) Patients relay their difficult stories at a 2016 news conference at the State Capitol to announce a patient initiative supporting medical cannabis.

Love wrote, “I am personally still deciding how I will vote on this issue. At the forefront of our consideration should be finding a solution to those who are suffering from chronic pain and illness.”

Her empathy grows out of her personal experience, she said. “As a mother, I will tell you that if there was an option available that would help a loved one or end my child’s suffering, I would not want any government to stand in the way of getting that help.”

But, Love said, “I am in favor of people who are suffering receiving needed medical treatment, but that the treatment should be prescribed and monitored by a licensed medical physician.”

The two politicians largely echo the position outlined by the LDS Church when it announced that it opposed Prop 2 — that the church would favor medical marijuana if prescribed by a doctor in proper dosages supplied by a pharmacy.

That scenario doesn’t exist because of federal laws outlawing cannabis. The 30 states that have moved to legalize medical marijuana use dispensaries that take notes from medical professionals.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Jack Gerard of the LDS Church, with Lisa Harkness and Craig Christensen, announces the church's opposition to Utah's medical marijuana initiative at a news conference in Salt Lake City, Thursday, Aug. 23, 2018.

However, this week, the church backed away from its insistence on prescriptions and pharmacies. It said it is “not going to insist on anything” as it seeks compromise to draft and pass a medical marijuana bill by the Legislature soon — instead of Prop 2, which it still strongly opposes.

Love seemed to go a bit further toward supporting medical marijuana back on Aug. 3 — before the LDS Church formally joined the Prop 2 opposition. During a meeting with constituents then, she said there is an opioid epidemic and opioids are “far more harmful” than marijuana, according to a report in the Daily Herald of Provo.

“I don’t support recreational use,” she said, according to the newspaper. “But, you know, I know a lot of parents out there where their children suffer from epilepsy, or they suffer from other things, and if it’s prescribed by a doctor, then I’m fine with it.”

Lobbyists for the LDS Church approached members of the Utah congressional delegation and some other political candidates earlier this year, asking them to sign on to the coalition opposing Prop 2. Love and McAdams declined to join. GOP Reps. Rob Bishop and Chris Stewart, along with Senate candidate Mitt Romney, did agree to join.

Love and McAdams each described to The Tribune how they, as Latter-day Saints, weigh their faith’s opposition to Prop 2 as they form their own stands on it.

McAdams said, “I respect The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ right to weigh in on important and community issues. I also value the right to exercise free agency and to participate in the political process according to my thoughtful consideration of the issue.”

Love said, “The LDS Church has a constitutional right to free speech. As an active Latter-day Saint, I’ll consider its statement in coming to my own personal decision on the proposition just as I consider the viewpoint of family, friends whose judgment I trust, as well as my own study of the issue.”

The pair also praised use of the initiative process to allow Utah voters to decide medical marijuana directly — after supporters complained that the Legislature long failed to act on it despite popular support.

“The closer to the people the decision is made, the better the decision,” Love wrote. “As a federal representative, I respect the Utah voters’ individual ability to consider each ballot initiative.”

McAdams wrote, “I believe this is an important issue for Utahns to decide and I respect that the initiative process lets all voters express their view at the ballot box.”