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At least one and possibly two senators have abandoned their support of a medical-marijuana bill pending in the Utah Legislature after the LDS Church issued a statement opposing the measure.

The measure's sponsor, Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Saratoga Springs, said his colleagues' change of heart is a blow to his effort to make Utah the 24th state to legalize medical cannabis, but he hopes there is still time to make the case to senators that the bill is worth passing.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement Friday to The Salt Lake Tribune that it officially opposes Madsen's SB73.

"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."

Representatives of the state's predominant faith had met with Madsen and legislative leaders earlier in the session to voice their concerns and opposition to the bill privately. About 60 percent of Utahns and the vast majority of the 104 legislators are Mormons.

The church's opposition "makes it more difficult," said Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy. "I don't know if I would characterize it as dead on arrival."

Madsen said he was glad to have the church's position aired publicly.

"It's more healthy to have these things done in the open rather than done in backrooms with smaller groups of people, especially when it affects the whole state," Madsen said Monday. "I think these conversations are best had for all to see."

The bill fell one vote shy of passage in the Senate last year, but backers acknowledged it may have had a rocky path in the House. Madsen said this year one senator had dropped his support for the measure and another may have done the same.

"I think we're still in pretty good shape," Madsen said, "and we've got a couple days to try to circle back with some folks."

The degree to which the church's position sways members varies from senator to senator.

"It certainly has an effect on the margins and on some votes it is a matter of: When the church speaks, we do," Madsen said. "Everyone has their own prerogative and informs their own positions in their own way, but obviously there are others who weigh [the church's view] among other things."

The church said it had "no objections" to another cannabis-related bill sponsored by Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, and Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem. That measure, SB89, would allow adults to use cannabidiol products — or CBD oils — extracted from marijuana plants but containing no tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive chemical in the plant.

Madsen and supporters of SB73 say that CBD oils can be useful for some ailments, but others respond better to use of the entire plant, including THC.

His bill would allow the use of those products and would enable parents to use them to treat their children, as well.

Niederhauser said that, based on his visits to dispensaries and growing facilities in Arizona and Colorado, he has personal concerns about the measure.

"Colorado is obviously recreational, but a lot of what they produce there is for medicinal purposes," he said. "The whole dispensary system really concerns me."

He said Congress needs to reclassify marijuana from being a Schedule 1 drug on par with heroin and cocaine "before we dive into making this legal or creating all kinds of distribution systems."

Senate Majority Leader Ralph Okerlund said that, because the marijuana bill has been debated before, he believes most senators have made up their minds.

"There may be a few fence-riders who may be influenced by additional information that may come out," said Okerlund, R-Monroe. "But I think it's just going to be one of those really interesting debates … where floor debate may swing it one way or the other."

It is likely that the Vickers and Madsen bills will be considered by the full Senate on the same day, possibly by week's end.

Twitter: @RobertGehrke