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On the heels of the LDS Church voicing opposition to a bill to legalize medical marijuana, supporters of the measure are weighing the possibility of a ballot initiative to put the question before voters if the bill fails.
"We're exploring that option. We're exploring it very seriously," said David Kirkham, one of the original founders of Utah's tea party and a former Republican gubernatorial candidate, who added he has been in contact with several influential friends about the effort.
"I think it's going to happen," Kirkham said. "If the church is going to do this in smokeless back rooms, then we need to light some fires for the people in broad daylight."
Christine Stenquist, president and co-founder of the group Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education, said she has explored the possibility of a ballot initiative, as well.
"We would like to see this happen legislatively," she said. "But, yes, I've definitely considered doing [an initiative] for the patients, especially with the outcry I've heard."
The logistics of such a move would be daunting requiring supporters to file papers, hold a series of public meetings and gather nearly 102,000 signatures spread across 26 of the 29 state Senate districts by April 15 in order to get the measure on the 2016 ballot.
On Friday, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement to The Salt Lake Tribune expressing concerns about the "unintended consequences" of SB73, a bill sponsored by Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Saratoga Springs, that would make Utah the 24th state to legalize medical marijuana.
The position staked out by the state's predominant religion about 60 percent of Utahns and a vast majority of the 104 legislators are Mormons caused at least one and possibly two senators to abandon their support for Madsen's bill, which narrowly failed in the Senate last year.
A poll conducted last month for The Tribune and the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah found that 61 percent of Utahns support legalized medical marijuana.
The church took no position on another cannabis-related bill, SB89, sponsored by Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, and Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem, that would allow adults to use cannabidiol extracts that do not contain THC the psychoactive chemical in marijuana to treat some diseases.
Madsen's bill would allow the use of products that contain THC to treat a longer list of illnesses and would allow parents to use the products for their children.
Kirkham, owner of Kirkham Motorsports, which makes custom roadsters, said he envisions a movement across political parties to legalize the medical programs.
"My friends are not people who say they're going to do something and then don't do it," Kirkham said. "We'll absolutely be looking for allies and I don't care what side of the aisle they're on. It doesn't matter if they're Democrats, Libertarians or Republicans, and we're going to put it to the people."