Mark Madsen, a Utah State Senator attempting to push through a medical marijuana legalization bill, announced that he will not back down from his position despite the disapproval of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
On Feb. 5, the LDS church released a statement to The Salt Lake Tribune, announcing that it officially opposes Madsen's SB73. The church has not given any details regarding its decision other than the legalization of medical marijuana could have “unintended consequences.”
"Along with others, we have expressed concern about the unintended consequences that may accompany the legalization of medical marijuana," church spokesman Eric Hawkins said in the statement. "We have expressed opposition to Senator Madsen's bill because of that concern."
Madsen, however, said that his bill would help provide people with much-needed pain relief, and that the majority of Utah residents are in favor of it. As a result, he will continue trying to garner enough support to pass the bill through the Utah Senate and sign it into law.
"It would be immoral to back down," Madsen told KUTV.
The church’s statement has led at least one senator, and possibly two, to abandon their support for SB73, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. The bill was almost passed in the Senate last year, but was one vote short; if it passes in 2016, it would make Utah the 24th state to legalize medical marijuana.
Madsen’s goal is to provide a viable alternative to prescription painkillers, which he sees as dangerous and addictive. The Utah Department of Health reported that in 2014, 288 people died after overdosing on prescription pain medications in Utah, according to KUTV.
Madsen’s own personal experiences have driven his support for the bill. In 2007, after an accidental fentanyl overdose from a patch he was using for back pain, he began to look for alternatives and discovered medical marijuana as a potentially safer way to alleviate pain symptoms.
Medical marijuana can also be used to help reduce seizures in people with epilepsy, muscle spasms in those afflicted with multiple sclerosis, and nausea in people going through chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer, according to CNN.