My daughter safely returned back home from serving a church mission in Portland, Oregon. She is slowly getting desensitized back into the real world. As with all newly returned missionaries, we have enjoyed hearing stories of her service.(1)

During a recent car ride she was reminded of a mission situation that is unique to Oregon and a handful of other more liberal states. That is the church position on the use of medical marijuana.
Her mission handbook states:

“ The fact that Oregon state law allows doctors to prescribe the smoking of marijuana for “medicinal” purposes does not change the fact that marijuana remains an illegal drug according to the federal laws of the United States, and the Supreme Court of the United States specifically ruled in 2005 that federal law take precedence over state legislation in this matter. Therefore, the Church Handbook statement quoted above (“members should not use any substance that contains illegal drugs”) applies in this situation. Unless we receive different instructions from the Brethren, no individual who smokes marijuana for “medicinal purposes” can be baptized a member of the Church in this mission. The prescription drug Marinol (synthetic THC), a capsule approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, provides legal relief to those who take it. Its use under competent medical supervision is not a violation of the Word of Wisdom and therefore does not prevent a person from being baptized.” (2)

This statement brings all kinds of interesting questions into my mind. I think it is fascinating that taking a synthetic drug, a profit-generating substance created by a drug company, is fine but the natural occurring substance is against God’s will. The argument presented in the last sentence, that the prescription drug is ok because it is recommended under medical supervision, also makes me take pause. In Oregon naturally occurring marijuana is legal under medical supervision so what is the difference? Heavenly Father wants to protect profit margins? (3)

Back to the states rights idea. The federal laws regarding illegal drugs take precedence over state laws. Does the church also back the federal immigration laws, ignoring the new harsh immigration state laws enacted in Alabama, Arizona, etc.? Can they keep a church member in good standing if they are breaking state immigration laws by feeding or housing an illegal alien in states that outlaw it?

I am also thinking about the Relief Society President who I struggled to understand. She was always ‘spacey’ at church meetings, slow to respond to questions and just didn’t seem very together in decision-making. I assumed it was one of those “Heavenly Father called her to this position because she needed to grow, not that she was going to do much for anyone else” kinds of callings. I was assigned to be her visiting teaching companion. As she was driving us to a home visit she fell asleep at the wheel and we veered off into oncoming highway traffic. I screamed and she woke up, jerking the wheel back just in time. As I recovered from our near death experience she confessed that she has a bad back that causes chronic pain. Her doctor prescribed Oxycodone (Percocet) for the pain. It makes her drowsy and unable to think straight, but it does kill the pain. She has taken it for years and has no intention of stopping. That completely explained all of her air-headedness.

She is not the only person I know who takes major drug prescriptions just to make it through church meetings. I had one friend who had to be released from teaching in Primary because her medication made her hyper, acting worse than the 7 year olds she was in charge of. How many bishops are hooked on major narcotic painkillers?

Years ago my brother, a stalwart member of the church, was dying from a brain tumor. He was suffering intensely. A good friend of mine suggested marijuana to ease his stomach pain, which was due to the massive steroid medication he was taking to control the tumor growth. She was nice enough to hook me up with a tea box size sample to try. I had no experience with marijuana so I couldn’t decide how to prepare it. Should I chop it up and bake it into cookies? Should he just smoke it like a cigarette? This was before I had the internet to solve my life problems.

I asked my husband, who had brushes of experience with marijuana in is youth, for advice. He was horrified that:
A. I would consider bringing illegal drugs into our house with young children at home.
B. I would think it appropriate to give an illegal drug to a dying man.
C. I wasn’t batting an eye at the moral implications, i.e. The Word of Wisdom.
He was right. I wasn’t thinking of anything other than easing my brothers suffering. (And a state trooper friend reassured me the cops weren’t interested in interfering with a hospice cancer patient’s treatments.)

My husband convinced me to give back my friends love offering and to stick with the prescription drugs, side effects and all. He pointed out that the hospice workers who were at our house daily, would surely notice what I was doing and that was the real risk. That and I realized my Word of Wisdom, law-abiding brother would never knowing take marijuana because Heavenly Father said no. But morphine was great and heaven approved.

1. Jennifer wants you to know that she ended up serving 20 months on her mission, 2 more than the maximum for sisters. She was hoping to slide by and serve the full male mission of 24 months, but the mission president was horrified when the oversight was brought to his attention. She is proud of this accomplishment.
2. page 18, under heading “missionary helps” in Portland, Oregon Mission Resource Handbook.
3. page 18 in POMRH also forbids medicinal coffee, even if your doctor prescribes it because, “ The are other acceptable forms of treatment that can provide the same medicinal effect and not in violation of the Word of Wisdom. Investigators who use “medicinal” coffee must stop drinking it before they can be baptized.”