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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Mormon church leaders are calling for Utah lawmakers to pass medical cannabis legislation by the end of 2018 even as they urge people to vote against a ballot measure that would legalize medical marijuana in the state.

Church leaders say they oppose the ballot measure, Proposition 2, because they believe it could allow recreational users get marijuana in Utah if it passes in November 2018, but they still want patients with serious medical needs to have access, the Deseret News reported Sept. 16, 2018.

“This isn’t ‘let’s wait till next year to have a conversation.’ It needs to be dealt with soon. There’s an urgency to accomplish this,” said Jack Gerard, a leader in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Jack Gerard, center, a leader in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, speaks during a press conference Aug. 23, 2018, in Salt Lake City, Utah’s capital. The Mormon church opposes Proposition 2, a measure that would legalize medical cannabis, but is asking on Utah lawmakers to craft legislation that would still allow patients to acquire medical marijuana if recommended by a doctor and distributed at a pharmacy. The church fears Proposition 2 would allow for medical marijuana use under the guise of a law intended for patients. (Associated Press File Photo/Rick Bowmer)

The church has argued the ballot measure would allow too many people to get medical cannabis cards without sufficient safeguards against doctors “rubber stamping” access.

But Republican Gov. Gary Herbert said it’s too early to gather lawmakers to consider an alternative to the ballot measure. Herbert typically calls a special session only when there is a “near consensus” among state lawmakers and there’s a long way to go to reach one on medical marijuana, spokesperson Paul Edwards said.

Herbert has said he will vote against Proposition 2, but he wants lawmakers to act in 2019.

Democratic Rep. Brian King, on the other hand, said he’s voting for Proposition 2, even though he thinks it’s flawed. The House minority leader said the likelihood that the Legislature would pass a bill if the ballot initiative fails is “slim and none.”

A special session would likely be held in November or early December, shortly after voters weigh in on Nov. 6, 2018.

Medical cannabis advocates decided to ask voters to approve medical marijuana in Utah after years of unsuccessfully pushing for broader legalization at the conservative Legislature dominated by Mormons and Republicans, and have been skeptical about whether lawmakers will take action.

The plan has been gaining steam in Utah as medical cannabis becomes legal in most U.S. states. Last month the church made a rare public statement against it. The church holds outsized political sway in its home state, but it remains to be seen whether the opposition will sink the ballot measure.

At the same time leaders spoke against the ballot measure, the church made its first-ever public statement supporting the use of medical marijuana if prescribed by a doctor and dispensed by a pharmacy.

Gerard said that is a turning point in church policy that hasn’t generated enough attention, but advocates have said it would be illegal under federal law for doctors to prescribe marijuana and for pharmacies to dispense it. In states where marijuana is legal for medical purposes, doctors can only recommend its use and the marijuana is distributed by dispensaries.

Proposition 2 would create a state-regulated growing and dispensing operation to allow people with certain medical conditions to get medical cannabis cards and consume marijuana as edibles, topicals or vapes.

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