Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Utah Medical Cannabis Debate - An LDS-Libertarian Perspective

I always get sideways looks when people find out that I'm both libertarian AND Mormon (LDS), really I understand why. On the surface many of the two belief systems seem to be in direct conflict - no drugs, alcohol, tobacco, tea vs. no regulation on substances, being loving to all people vs. no (or very little) restriction on arms/manufacture and trade, "Pro-life" vs. "Pro-choice, the list goes on.

The key is the role I feel each plays in my life. I view my Christian belief system as directing my actions. It's how I should act, it's how I should treat other people, while I my libertarian views direct how I think government should interact with me and everyone else.

The medical cannabis debate is a perfect illustration of this.

Recently in Utah (where the LDS Church is headquartered) there has been a big push for a citizen led ballot initiative to legalize medical cannabis. This was countered by attempts to get citizens to remove their name from the petition and press releases by the LDS Church showing disapproval of the proposed initiative.

How do I reconcile this? As a libertarian I believe there should be very little if any restrictions on what substances a person chooses to put in their body but as a Mormon don't I also believe it should be banned?

For me the question comes down to one of free agency. For those that don't know free agency is a somewhat unique but central tenant of LDS doctrine. We believe being "free to choose" and using that freedom is the primary reason we have an earthly existence. Commandments, such as the Word of Wisdom (which governs what we do and don't take into our body), are viewed as small opportunities to show our willingness to be obedient. What then happens if through government intervention artificially limit our ability to choose to be obedient?

Take for example a Mormon walking into a convenience store to buy a candy bar vs. a teenager in a group of friends when one starts handing out cigarettes. For the first the temptation to purchase and use tobacco may exist but it is relatively easy to resist. For the second it is much much more difficult. You could even say that the first hasn't really been tested at all, while the second has been through a very challenging test and will be much stronger for it.

And so it is with medical cannabis. Prohibition of Cannabis sativa  and related plants has effectively removed a person's ability to choose whether or not it's use is in accordance with Gospel Principles. Currently in the state of Utah it is easy to choose to not partake of cannabis - the temptation is minimal.

I firmly believe that a person is stronger after going through trials and the harder the trial the more strength that is gained. The trial in this case is not just one of medical cannabis but also of responsible parenting, I won't use/abuse medical cannabis but have I taught my children to do the same?

As an aside, the LDS Church hasn't, to my knowledge, directly stated that medical use of cannabis is contrary to the teachings of the Word of Wisdom. They haven't been shy about their displeasure of the proposed ballot initiative but they have been very careful to not condemn it's use - a significant number of Mormons reside in states and countries where it's use is completely legal. 

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