By Jason M. Adkins, Montana State University Billings
In what could be a watershed moment for the LDS Church in Utah, voters approved a ballot initiative in the state despite opposition from the church for the first time since voters supported repealing Prohibition in 1933. Proposition 2, which would legalize medical marijuana in the state, looks to pass by a 53 – 47 percent margin, with “For” votes outnumbering “Against” votes by nearly 50,000 votes so far. There are approximately 127,000 ballots left to count, but the Associated Press called the contest Thursday. Nearly 55,000 remaining ballots remain to be counted from Salt Lake County, which is 50 percent LDS, and 72,000 ballots in Utah County, which is 85 percent LDS.
The LDS Church campaigned heavily against Prop. 2, with the church publishing several statements urging voters to reject the initiative. As I posted here on the Religion in Public blog in September, most LDS who regularly attended church, paid tithing, and held temple recommends were more likely to oppose Prop. 2, while less-active LDS and non-LDS heavily favored legalizing medical marijuana.
The Utah Legislature is already poised to amend Proposition 2 with a special session set for December 3 – two days after the initiative is due to take effect, with the LDS Church in favor of legalization that would allow medical marijuana to only be dispensed by a licensed pharmacist.
Proposition 3, which would expand Medicaid with a sales tax increase on non-grocery items, looks set to pass by a 54 percent – 46 percent margin. The LDS Church weighed in on Medicaid expansion in late 2014, supporting efforts to address health care for the poor without endorsing specific policy options. Unlike its opposition to Proposition 2, the LDS Church stayed on the sidelines during the fall campaign.